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WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., today praised the Senate’s final passage of the bipartisan Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, H.R.2, known as the Farm Bill. The legislation codifies agriculture policy for the next five years to strengthen our agricultural economy in Georgia and the United States. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 87-13. It will now be considered by the U.S. House of Representatives.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 will provide certainty and predictability to farmers and ranchers by improving crop insurance coverage and reauthorizing farm and conservation programs. It also provides assistance to rural communities through expansion of broadband, opioid addiction treatment programs, and support for agriculture programs for veterans.

“As the senior senator from the state of Georgia where agriculture is our leading industry, I am proud to support the 2018 Farm Bill to help our farmers today and in the long term,” said Isakson. “Our nation’s farmers face near-constant uncertainty in their day-to-day operations as they work to feed the world. This bill anticipates future challenges and helps ensure that our policies reflect the needs of our farmers.

“I also appreciate each member of the House and Senate negotiating teams who hammered out the details in the final legislation, including Georgia’s U.S. Representatives Rick Allen, R-Ga.-12, Austin Scott, R-Ga.-08, and David Scott, D-Ga.-13.”

Contributing an annual $73 billion to Georgia’s economy, agriculture remains the state’s leading industry. Additionally, Georgia is home to a larger variety of agricultural industries than almost any other state.

Significant to Georgia farmers, the legislation maintains funding levels for the main crop insurance program used in Georgia, Price Loss Coverage, at current funding levels.

Georgia is the second largest cotton-growing state in the United States, and cotton, which is the largest crop by acreage in Georgia, contributes an estimated economic value of more than $1.6 billion to Georgia’s economy.

Legislation passed earlier this year made cotton eligible for Title I commodity programs. The 2018 Farm Bill will allow increased coverage if five-year crop price averages escalate significantly.

At Isakson’s urging, these safety net programs were maintained to protect cotton farmers in the 2018 Farm Bill. Isakson sponsored an amendment included in the legislation to extend funding for an important program that helps modernize and protect U.S. textile factories while also promoting the use of domestic-produced cotton. The program is now fully funded.   

The majority of cotton produced in Georgia is exported to other countries. Therefore, the industry is greatly dependent on open trade relationships with key markets.

Trade promotion programs are fully funded in the legislation, and several major trade and assistance programs were consolidated to streamline operations.

The legislation also encourages conservation by the agriculture community. The Conservation Stewardship Program remains in place, and funding was increased for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, which incentivizes and contributes to smart conservation practices on farms.

The specialty crop industry contributes $4.5 billion in total economic impact in Georgia and provides over 31,000 jobs throughout the state. The legislation prioritizes research and development of additional risk management policies for specialty crops like peaches and pecans.

Georgia is consistently ranked as the top forestry state in the nation, and it tops every other state in the nation in terms of pure volume of timber harvested. The 2018 Farm Bill also includes key provisions from the Timber Innovation Act, which Isakson cosponsored, providing funds for research and development of wood-building construction as well as wood innovation grants. Additionally in Georgia, the legislation included the Chattahoochee Oconee Land Adjustment Act, which was cosponsored by Isakson and gives U.S. Forest Service the tools they need to better steward North Georgia’s only national forest, improve recreational opportunities and save taxpayer dollars.

The bill also helps ensure safety for farm animals and the food supply through funding of the National Animal Disease Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Program and establishes the new National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank.