Local farmers say new farm bill opens doors to trade overseas
YAKIMA VALLEY, Wash. - The Senate and House of Representatives passed an $867 billion farm bill.
The five-year bill covers dozens of food policies and farming programs, including the cost of food and and how crops are grown locally.
The previous farm bill expired in October and farmers were left without knowing what funds would be available and what rules were in place.
Local farmers such as Frank Lyall said passing the bill provides certainty.
"I think most farmers large and small are in support of this and somewhat relieved that the money is appropriated and the program is defined and going forward," Lyall said.
One important aspect to the farm bill is trade.
Here in the Yakima Valley, farmers produce a lot more than we consume so exporting is necessary to make a profit.
Northwest Horticultural Council Vice President Kate Tynan said recent tariffs with countries like China have hurt trade, but this bill is allowing farmers to look at other markets overseas.
"This is especially important when you're looking at a lot of the retaliatory tariffs we're facing in top export markets," Tynan said. "This will hopefully allow us to help try and off set some of that by expanding sales in other markets."
Some farmers said improvements could be made to the farm bill.
About 80 percent of the money from the bill is going toward food assistance programs, helping 40 million low income Americans. Working is not a requirement to receive those funds.
Lyall said able-bodied people should have to work for their food and that they can always be used in the fields.
"In agriculture we're always in an employee deficit situation," he said. "If somebody doesn't have a job we'd like to have them come out and work in these beautiful orchards."
The farm bill now heads over to President Trump's desk and is expected to be signed into law by the end of the year.