Senate passes farm bill with Maine-friendly provisions
WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Senate on Thursday easily passed its farm bill by a vote of 86-11, with U.S. Senator Angus King voted in favor of its passage. The legislation includes a number of provisions that King supported that he said will help Maine.
“The Farm Bill is a critical piece of legislation that affects farmers, consumers, and people in rural communities throughout Maine and across the nation,” King said in a written statement.
The Senate’s bipartisan support of the $867 billion bill, coming a week after the House passed its partisan measure by a margin of just two votes, allows Congress some space to deliver legislation to President Donald Trump to sign before the current farm bill expires on Sept. 30.
The House version of the legislation passed narrowly last week and imposes new work requirements on able-bodied adults seeking food stamps. The Senate version sought out no major changes to food stamps.
Lawmakers must now meet later this summer to reconcile gaping differences between the House and Senate bills.
King said that this year’s legislation “creates new opportunities for Maine’s forest economy, continues funding for essential nutrition programs, and makes much-needed improvements to rural broadband programs that will help rural regions grow and compete in an increasingly digital world,” he said in a written statement.
“The importance of this bill is reflected in the overwhelmingly bipartisan nature of its passage – which is in itself a resounding show of support for our nation’s agricultural producers and rural residents,” he continued.
King outlined several major victories that he supported in the bill, some that will directly benefit the state, including evaluating and modernizing the formula used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to support Cooperative Extension Programs. King and U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) successfully included an amendment that directs USDA to use the 2017 Census of Agriculture to better understand the changing needs of agriculture and rural communities. This aims to help Cooperative Extension programs better address the challenges facing small and diverse farms and ranches, veteran farmers and ranchers, value-added agriculture, direct-to-consumer sales, and specialty crops.
Despite massive shifts in agriculture in recent years, this funding formula has not been evaluated in decades, according to King.
At the same time, an amendment will support dairy farmers and establish regional initiatives to support innovation for Maine dairy businesses, foster the research and development of new dairy products and support new dairy farmers.
The Senate bill also protects nutrition programs and does not jeopardize important nutrition programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Additionally, the legislation reduces red tape and increases support for seniors by extending certification periods in SNAP and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP.)
Support for modernizing rural broadband programs would be continued under the bill and the legislation gives reauthorization to the Northern Border Regional Commission through 2023 based on legislation authored by Sens. King and Collins.
In addition to reauthorizing the NRBC, the legislation establishes a state capacity building grant program that will help develop projects that support business retention and expansion, access to high-speed broadband, critical infrastructure development, and job creation throughout the region.