Congress this week passed the Conference Report to the Farm Bill, H.R. 2. It now goes to the president's desk. The current Farm Bill expired in September. The Senate passed the Farm Bill 87-13 and it passed the U.S. House of Representatives 369-47.

The bill, among other things, amends the Environmental Quality Incentive Program to better work for Montana producers and increases the maximum acreage of the Conservation Reserve Program, protects crop insurance, a critical part of the safety net for Montana farmers, secures funding for land grant universities, specialty crops, and agriculture research stations across Montana and secures provisions to expand broadband access in rural Montana. It also removes hemp from the list of controlled substances, enabling it to be sold as a commodity, and reauthorizes critical USDA Rural Development Grants that are used to rebuild and construct water and wastewater infrastructure.

Montana Senator Jon Tester supported the Farm Bill because it strengthens crop insurance, supports conservation, protects nutrition assistance for seniors and families, and invests in rural communities. Senator Steve Daines said, “I’m glad to see that we’re moving forward with the 2018 Farm Bill and helping our farmers and ranchers get the certainty they deserve.”

In the U.S. House, Montana Congressman Greg Gianforte voted for the Farm Bill Conference Report. Gianforte said, “This Farm Bill gives our farmers and ranchers a strong safety net that protects them against the impact of natural disasters and unpredictable, unfair trade practices of other countries. “ He also liked the inclusion of Good Neighbor Authority, saying, “It improves how we manage our forests by empowering county governments to improve management of neighboring National Forest System lands.”

Nearly 500 agriculture groups supported H.R. 2, including the Montana Grain Growers Association and the Montana Farm Bureau Federation.