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State ag leaders put food safety on priority list for 2018 farm bill

Before it wrapped up its meetings this week in Washington D.C., the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) agreed to priorities for the 2018 farm bill.

If that seems a little pre-mature, it’s not. Congressional leaders plan to get to work on the 2018 farm bill later this year. And food safety, specifically the need farmers and ranchers may have for low-cost loans to upgrade infrastructure to comply with the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), is among NASDA’s priorities.

NASDA-FINAL_406x250NASDA’s other priorities focus on enhanced funding for invasive species programs, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program, and the Market Access Program. The group also wants robust funding for research, new tools for animal disease coordination, and investments in voluntary conservation programs.

Michael G. Strain, NASDA president and Louisiana commissioner of agriculture and forestry, stressed NASDA’s unique role in understanding the challenges and opportunities facing agricultural production across the county.

“The farm bill is vital for communities of every size across the country and for healthy food, job creation, and natural resource conservation,” he said. “We are committed to working with Congress to craft a bill that provides the tools our producers need to succeed and provide consumers access to safe, high quality, and affordable food.

NASDA represents the elected and appointed commissioners, secretaries and directors of the departments of agriculture in all 50 states and four U.S. territories. They just concluded their 2017 Winter Policy Conference, which is one of two annual meetings for NASDA.

A spokesperson for NASDA said the winter conference did not include discussion of whether the 2018 farm bill should be split into two bills to separate out the nutrition or food stamp section as some suggested last time.

The food stamp program, called Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, and related nutrition programs were authorized for funding over 10 years in the 2014 farm bill, costing more than any other area of farm spending at $756 billion.

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