THE FARM BILL DEBATE is making headlines as policy- makers outline new legislation, but most of what you’ll see in the news is related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or crop insurance. While these programs are important, there are many other programs of importance. As such, Jane DeMarchi, American Seed Trade Association vice president of government and regulatory affairs, has been working with partners and coalitions to ensure language in the commodity, conservation, crop insurance, horticulture, research, trade and miscellaneous titles is in seed companies’ best interest. “We’ve been working in partnership with a number of coali- tions on key priorities,” she says. “We are strengthening our network and relationships here in D.C.” Outside of the traditional commodity groups, ASTA also works with the National Wildlife Federation, AmericanHort and the Society of American Florists. After what House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway says is the result of a three-year process, including 114 hearings, six in-the-field listening sessions and countless meet- ings, the House Agriculture Committee released “2018 Farm Bill, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act (H.R.2)” April 12. The bill went before the House of Representatives May 18 and failed to pass, by a vote of 198-213. At the time of print, the Senate had not released their version of the bill. DeMarchi spotlights areas of importance for the seed industry. Title I: Commodities. Within this title, ASTA encourages the use of specific language to help ensure that Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage are available to hybrid seed producers. “Yields for hybrid seed producers are generally lower than that of typical growers,” she says. “Previous farm bills have included language, so these growers aren’t at a disadvantage.” Title II: Conservation. From what is known, DeMarchi says the Conservation Title in the House and Senate bills will look very different. The House version, she says, increases the number of acres in the Conservation Reserve Program, but decreases the dollars per acre paid for seeds from 50 percent to 25 percent. “We are not in favor of this decrease,” DeMarchi says. “There are other things the government can do within the program to decrease seed costs. This includes increasing the transparency when seeding requirements are created, and focusing on the types of species that can be planted and the number of species in a mix, as well as the seeding rate. All of these factors impact the overall cost of the program.” III: Trade. DeMarchi says ASTA has been hard at work to secure funding for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development program. The House bill rolls four programs (MAP, FMD, EMP and TASC) into one international market development program. ASTA participates and uses all of these programs, except EMP. Furthermore, FMD, TASC and EMP do not currently have baseline funding, which makes combining the programs critical. . On the positive side, H.R. 2 allows for increased funding through USAID to the Global Crop Diversity Trust. Title V: Crop Insurance. Regarding crop insurance, DeMarchi says ASTA wants to ensure that crop insurance doesn’t hinder the use of cover crops. Language specific to cover crops was not included in the House farm bill, but we are hopeful it will be included in the Senate’s version, she says. The goal is to make sure that farmers’ ability to use cover crops to improve soil health is not limited by USDA program requirements. Title VII: Research, Extension, and Related Matters. This title includes funding for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR). The 2014 Farm Bill saw a mandatory $200 mil- lion put toward this program, which ASTA supports. The House version does not include funding for FFAR, but DeMarchi is hopeful the Senate version will. However, the House version does authorize $30 million to a new “Ag Genome to Phenome” project. Title IX: Horticulture. The House farm bill included language supporting the development of a regulatory framework for biostimulants and creates a definition. “We see this as a technol- ogy that holds a lot of promise,” DeMarchi says. As it was written, Title IX would require that the Secretary of Agriculture, in consul- tation with the EPA administrator, write a report on how to best improve policies around gene editing and plant breeding innovation. The Horticulture title also expands coverage of the Plant Variety Protection Act to include asexually propagated material. This includes language that will better align the United States with the international system and expand protections for flowers and other asexually propagated material. The House also included language instructing USDA to increase and carryout a national science-based campaign about technology and food. SW Farm bill discussions ramp up, and so does ASTA. Julie Deering INSIDE the BELTWAY 22 / SEEDWORLD.COM JUNE 2018