(WAFF) - Monday, Senate leaders passed an $867 billion farm bill that expands safety net programs for farmers across the country. North Alabama farmers, some of the most essential in the state who were hit hard by the tariffs on exports to China, are hopeful this package will offset some of their financial woes.
It took serious bipartisan efforts to land this agreement, coming in with an 87-13 vote following months of back-and-forth over key issues that make up the legislation, like SNAP benefits.
Freshman Democratic Sen. Doug Jones saying the bill provides a brighter, more secure future for the state. Republican Sen. Richard Shelby says it will significantly benefit our state’s farmers, which is a group already battered by in President Donald Trump’s trade war.
“Things are already kind of tough in the farming world, and so, I mean, it just makes it that much harder to pay our bills and to be able to make a living for our families," said north Alabama farmer Brady Peek. “The future looks bright for us, but we’ve gotta get this worked out to where we can trade fairly.”
The healthiness of Alabama’s economy relies heavily on agriculture. According to a release from Shelby’s office, agriculture generates over $70 billion annually in Alabama. The Alabama Soybean Association says more than $50 million of that comes from north Alabama.
The farm bill is expected to cost $867 billion over 10 years, with most of the funding devoted to programs such as SNAP. While there are SNAP revisions, it will not restrict individual benefits, congressional aides say.
“Farmers are not looking for handouts. Farmers want trade. Farmers depend on the world market. So, at the end of the day, we just want to treated fairly," said
“This is a farm bill for rural Alabama and rural America,” said Jones. “I’m proud that the final legislation ensures that our farmers have the support and resources they need to continue to do their important work.
The 2018 farm bill improves the crop insurance program, helps expand rural broadband initiatives, and includes many of the cotton industry’s priorities such as the continuation of the Seed Cotton program.
Congressional leaders anticipate Trump will sign the bill into law.