By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent
WASHINGTON (DTN) -- The House on Wednesday passed by voice vote a motion to proceed to conference on the farm bill, which is numbered HR 2 and titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.
The House also passed a Democratic motion to instruct conferees to insist on 10-year permanent funding for an animal vaccine program. The House bill has permanent funding, but the Senate bill has only an authorization for appropriations.
That recorded vote was 392 to 20.
House leadership also named House conferees on the farm bill Wednesday afternoon. The Senate must now also proceed to conference and appoint conferees.
In a statement prepared for delivery on the House floor on the animal vaccine amendment, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said, "... Following an outbreak of avian influenza in 2013 and 2014, it is estimated that poultry producers in my state lost $113 million in existing production, approximately $3 billion nationally, and it cost taxpayers almost $1 billion.
"Hungry consumers are affected too. The price of a dozen eggs in 2015 was double what it was before the outbreak.
"This isn't just a poultry problem. Foot and Mouth Disease, PEDv, Cattle Fever Tick and other diseases present a serious threat to the viability of livestock operations and the communities and supply chains across the country that depend on them. Outbreaks mean culling animals and suspending production, and because fewer animals come into processing facilities, layoffs in local communities.
"Disease outbreaks also impact farmers who grow feed. One study estimates that a future outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease could cost corn growers $44 billion and soybean growers nearly $25 billion."
Peterson said the House bill provides $450 million in mandatory funding over five years for programs including the National Animal Health Laboratory Network, the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program, and the National Animal Vaccine Bank. The Senate provides an authorization for appropriations, but no mandatory funding.
"Animal disease programs are important investments in the health of our nation's animals, our people, and the security of our food supply," Peterson said. "As part of their work on the farm bill, conferees should insist on 10-year, mandatory funding for Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Programs to provide the certainty that both farmers and consumers need."
HOUSE FARM BILL CONFEREES NAMED
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Wednesday also named the House conferees on the farm bill.
The Republican list consists of 29 members and seems to reflect the fact that 2018 is an election year and that Ryan has made nutrition programs a priority in the bill. In a statement accompanying the list, Ryan ignored the agricultural sections of the bill and emphasized the bill as a piece of social legislation
"We see this farm bill as pivotal for building a sturdier ladder of opportunity in America," Ryan said.
"With all this momentum in our economy, there could not be a better time to help more people move from welfare to work. This is a chance to close the skills gap, better equip our workforce, and support much-needed development in rural communities. I look forward to working with [House Agriculture] Chairman [Michael] Conaway [R-Texas] and all of these lawmakers on these vital reforms."
Conaway said in a news release: "Today, we move one step closer to delivering a strong, new farm bill to the president's desk on time as he has called on Congress to do."
"America's farmers and ranchers and rural America are struggling right now and they deserve the certainty of a strong farm bill to see them through to better times," Conaway said.
"The House has pulled together a solid team of conferees from across the country who are committed to working with our Senate colleagues to reach a final product that helps millions of low-income Americans climb the economic ladder while standing by the hard-working farm and ranch families who put food on our tables and clothes on our backs."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., named 10 Democrats to the conference committee.
"With America's farmers, producers and ranchers facing plummeting prices, rising retaliatory tariffs and a struggling farm economy, we need a real robust, bipartisan farm bill more than ever," Pelosi said.
"While House Republicans chose to advance a destructive and partisan bill that fails farmers and hungry families, this conference will provide an opportunity to return to the grand bipartisan tradition of robust farm bills.
"Our diverse and dynamic House Democratic conferees will bring the strength of their values and wide-ranging expertise to the work of hammering out a bipartisan farm bill that honors our responsibility to the men and women of agriculture and hungry families."
For the full list of House Republican conferees, visit https://agriculture.house.gov/…, and for the full list of House Democratic conferees, visit http://democrats.agriculture.house.gov/….
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