The long-awaited 2018 Farm Bill got off to a rabbit-like start on its long and winding journey to becoming law. In only six days after its introduction, the House Committee on Agriculture approved the “Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018” (H.R. 2) on April 18.
The mark-up was warmly received by major ag organizations, including NCBA, Farm Bureau and the National Pork Producers Council. One reason for the welcome reception is, among the provisions included in the legislation, there’s language establishing and funding a vaccine bank to deal with a U.S. outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in livestock.
"We want to thank Chairman Mike Conaway and the other members of the House Agriculture Committee who have worked so hard to craft this Farm Bill and to ensure that it protects the priorities of America's cattle producers,” said NCBA President Kevin Kester. “We'll continue to work through the Farm Bill process to make sure that it includes authorization and full funding for a foot-and-mouth disease vaccine bank, as well as funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), research, foreign market development, and market access programs."
FMD is an infectious viral disease that affects cloven-hooved animals, including cattle, pigs and sheep; it is not a food safety or human health threat. Although it was last detected in the United States in 1929, the disease is endemic in many parts of the world.
The agriculture panel’s Farm Bill calls for first-year mandatory funding of $150 million for the FMD vaccine bank, $70 million in block grants to the states for disease prevention and $30 million for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which provides disease diagnostic support. For the other years of the five-year Farm Bill, there’s $30 million in mandatory funding for state block grants and $20 million to be used at the agriculture secretary’s discretion for the vaccine bank, the NAHLN and the states.
Swine are one of the most FMD-susceptible animals, and pork producers are urging lawmakers to provide funding of $150 million for the vaccine bank, $70 million for state block grants and $30 million for the NAHLN for each year of the Farm Bill.
“The United States is not prepared for an FMD outbreak, so we are urging Congress to provide the full five-year mandatory funding,” said NPPC President Jim Heimerl, a pork producer from Johnstown, Ohio. “We need this to protect the country from the financial devastation this dreadful disease would wreak on farmers and the U.S. economy.”
The House bill also includes funding for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program, both of which help support exports markets for U.S. goods. The programs are consolidated as the International Market Development Program.
Additionally, the measure has money for feral swine eradication. According to USDA, there are an estimated 5 million feral swine in at least 39 states; the cost of controlling them and the amount of damage they do is about $1.5 billion annually.
The measure now goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration. After the House passes its version of the 2018 Farm Bill, it will go to the Senate.