The House passed the final House-Senate Farm Bill agreement Jan. 29, and it includes money to fight citrus greening, guaranteeing $125 million in citrus disease research funding over the next five years, and authorizing an additional $125 million in discretionary funding designated to combat the disease.
“Florida’s farmers, rancher and growers are cheering today,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney (FL-17). “Our farmers deserve, and all American taxpayers deserve, a long-term farm bill that reduces the deficit, enacts critical reforms, and ensures that we can continue to enjoy a safe, affordable and abundant food supply.
“I’m very excited that this bill includes our new initiative to fight citrus disease, and provides the funding needed to help win this battle, save Florida’s citrus industry, and protect Florida jobs. Getting this funding to fight citrus greening is a huge victory not just for the growers in my district, but for our entire state and everyone in this country who drinks orange juice.”
The Farm Bill agreement creates a new competitive research and extension grant program, the Citrus Disease Research and Extension Initiative, designated to combat citrus disease. It dedicates $25 million in annual funding for the grant program, and authorizes an additional $25 million in annual discretionary spending, over the next five years. Rooney noted that as a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, he would fight to ensure that the program receives the full $50 million each year.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said, “The farm bill directs critical funding to support Florida’s fight against citrus greening, thanks to the tireless efforts of Congressman Tom Rooney. Citrus greening is an existential threat to Florida’s $9 billion industry, and we need all the help we can get to save our state’s signature crop.”
Other highlights of the bill for Florida farmers and taxpayers include:
- Saves $23 billion in mandatory funding, including $8 billion that comes directly from reforms to the food stamp program.
- Ends the farmer direct payment program that ignores market conditions and imposes means tests to ensure farm programs are accountable.
- Strengthens the crop insurance program.
- Eliminates or consolidates more than 100 USDA programs.
- Reauthorizes and strengthens livestock disaster assistance.
- Reauthorizes the current sugar program at no cost to the taxpayer.
- Includes key dairy reforms by repealing outdated programs and replacing with a voluntary margin protection program without supply management.
- Closes the “heat-and-eat” loophole in SNAP; establishes a 10-state pilot for able-bodied mandatory work programs; prohibits USDA from advertising or recruiting for SNAP; ensures illegal immigrants, lottery winners, traditional college students and the deceased do not receive SNAP benefits (nor anyone receive benefits in multiple states).