Farm Bill OK gives S.C. position on U.S. peanut board

The South Carolina Peanut Parity Act has been approved as part of the 2018 Farm Bill OK’d by Congress.

Sponsored in the Senate by South Carolina Republican U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, and in the House by 2nd District Republican Rep. Joe Wilson, the act will put an individual from South Carolina on the Peanut Standards Board at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The legislation will now go to President Donald Trump’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law.

Graham, Scott and Wilson noted that even though South Carolina has the fourth largest peanut industry in the country, the state is not represented on the Peanut Standards Board. The board, created by the 2002 Farm Bill, advises USDA on proper standards for peanut quality and handling.

“As growers of our state’s official snack, South Carolina peanut farmers deserve a say in matters that affect their livelihood. I’m proud to work with my colleagues, Sen. Scott and Congressman Wilson, on this important bill to ensure South Carolina’s peanut farmers get adequate representation at USDA,” Graham said. “I appreciate and look forward to President Trump signing this provision into law.”

“Ensuring South Carolina peanut farmers have a seat at the table is incredibly important,” Scott said. “I want to thank Sen. Graham for working together on this important bill, and I look forward to sharing some South Carolina boiled peanuts with our colleagues soon!”

“Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill which provides much-needed certainty to South Carolina farmers. As the sponsor of the South Carolina Peanut Parity Act of 2017, I was grateful to see this legislation as part of the agreement. Peanut Parity is a crucial piece of legislation that gives South Carolina a voice on the Peanut Standards Board,” Wilson said.

Orangeburg County is the largest producer of peanuts in South Carolina.

The new Farm Bill, which Trump is expected to sign in the coming week, appropriates $400 billion for agriculture subsidies, conservation programs and food aid.

The House voted 369-47 on Wednesday for the legislation, which sets federal agricultural and food policy for five years, after the Senate approved it 87-13 on Tuesday.

The measure reauthorizes crop insurance and conservation programs and pays for trade programs, bioenergy production and organic farming research. It also reduces the cost for struggling dairy producers to sign up for support programs and legalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp.

One thing the bill doesn’t include: tighter work requirements for food stamp recipients, a provision of the House bill that was celebrated by President Donald Trump but became a major sticking point during negotiations.

The bill does increase funding for employment and training programs from $90 million to $103 million.

Another contentious piece of the House’s original legislation, relaxing restrictions on pesticide use, also didn’t make it into the final text.

The House and Senate also clashed over portions of the bill’s forestry and conservation sections.

Negotiations were complicated in recent weeks when the White House asked Congress to make changes to the forestry section in response to deadly wildfires in California, giving more authority to the Agriculture and Interior departments to clear forests and other public lands. The final text doesn’t significantly increase the agencies’ authority.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the bill will help producers “make decisions about the future, while also investing in important agricultural research and supporting trade programs to bolster export.” But he voiced disappointment over the failed changes to work requirements.

“While I feel there were missed opportunities in forest management and in improving work requirements for certain SNAP recipients, this bill does include several helpful provisions and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities,” he said.

The bill maintains current limits on farm subsidies, but includes a House provision to expand the definition of family to include first cousins, nieces and nephews, making them eligible for payments under the program.