Legislative Update

Rep. Jim Costa, D – Calif.; Deborah Hamlin, IA chief executive officer; and John Vikupitz, Netafim USA president and CEO, participated in the IA and NGWA Water Resources Fly-in on March 8, 2017.

The Irrigation Association continues to focus on influencing the national and state policy debate by promoting efficient irrigation. Throughout the year, the IA has engaged in ongoing conversations about water use and has worked to promote incentives for efficient technologies. The irrigation industry can offer unique solutions to current policy issues, and IA is focused on maintaining relationships with stakeholders in the broader agriculture and landscape industries to advance irrigation industry priorities.

Congress Begins Work on the 2018 Farm Bill

Every five years, the United States Congress must review and reauthorize the farm bill. Since 1933, this comprehensive piece of legislation has governed agriculture policies in the United States. The current farm bill was scheduled to be renewed in 2012, but it was unable to pass the House of Representatives on time. The final version of this bill was passed and signed into law in February of 2014; it includes 12 titles focused on food and farm policy, including crop insurance, nutrition and conservation.

The Irrigation Association engages in the farm bill process and advocates for voluntary farm conservation programs, like the Environmental Quality Incentives Program. In March 2017, representatives from IA member companies met with their members of Congress to share details about the industry’s work innovating and promoting technologies that apply water more efficiently in agriculture. IA and its members want to ensure the irrigation industry has a seat at the table as decisions about conservation programs are made. The association’s activities around the farm bill will be ongoing. See the article “Irrigation Association Hosts Legislative Fly- in” on page 13 for more details.

The IA is also a member of the steering committee of the Western Agriculture and Conservation Coalition. The goal of this coalition is to support the common interests of agriculture and conservation. As the farm bill process continues, WACC will work to ensure a strong conservation title.

The Farm Bill Process

With the current farm bill expiring in late 2018, lawmakers in both the House and Senate are beginning to focus on the next farm bill. The House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry have jurisdiction, and these committees will spend time in 2017 drafting their respective versions of the bill.

The farm bill process kicked off with the House and Senate agriculture committees holding hearings. Since the start of 2017, the House Committee on Agriculture has held 10 hearings on the farm bill, including one on conservation policy (agriculture. aspx?EventID=3677).

In addition to the hearings on Capitol Hill, members of Congress will travel the country to hold hearings — and listening sessions — to hear directly from the public. The Senate’s first and only hearing so far was a field hearing in Kansas.

The goal over the next year and a half is for Congress to propose, debate and, hopefully, pass a new farm bill. Congressional leaders on the agriculture committees have signaled their intent to construct this farm bill without the drama seen in 2012. While obstacles are still expected, there does seem to be less contention around the nutrition programs, which make up approximately 70 percent of farm bill spending. Additionally, with the low commodity prices and a struggling agriculture economy, leaders are motivated to ensure a strong farm safety net.

For more background on the farm bill, check out episode 20 of the Bringing Water to Life podcast:

Visit the House and Senate agriculture committee websites to see if your member of Congress is a member.

House – Senate – 11

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