December 12, 2018

Whitehouse Applauds Protection of SNAP, Aquaculture Provision in 2018 Farm Bill

Senate-passed farm bill includes priorities for RI agriculture

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse applauded passage in the Senate yesterday of the 2018 farm bill conference report, which protects Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and includes a provision Whitehouse advocated for to support the growth of the aquaculture industry. 

The version of the legislation approved by the Senate does not include provisions from the House version of the bill that would have expanded the program’s work requirements to older Americans and families with young children receiving SNAP benefits.  About 175,000 Rhode Islanders used SNAP benefits each month in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

“This farm bill makes progress in a number of areas important to agriculture in the Ocean State while protecting the vital nutrition assistance program that so many Rhode Island families depend on to put food on the table,” said Whitehouse.

A proposal Whitehouse advocated for to insure each of the life stages of shellfish as separate crops was included in the farm bill.  Current insurance options are inadequate and often hamstring farmers from expanding their operations.  Shellfish farmers are at a high risk of losing their crops because of weather events, diseases, and changes in the marine environment.  Shellfish face different kinds of risks as they advance through life stages.  These risks amplify the need for farmers to have workable, affordable insurance options like those available to land farmers. 

“Some of the best oysters in the world are harvested from the salt ponds of Rhode Island.  Insurance options tailored to the unique challenges of aquaculture farming would give a flourishing local industry the certainty to keep growing,” said Whitehouse.

Rhode Island’s aquaculture industry has grown dramatically over the past two decades.  The state’s 73 shellfish farms sold more than 8.4 million oysters in 2017, according to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.  While oysters comprise the bulk of Rhode Island’s shellfish aquaculture production, farmers in Rhode Island also grow clams, scallops, and mussels.

The 2018 farm bill incorporates a number of other provisions advocated for by Whitehouse, including maintaining support for USDA conservation and rural business development programs, providing better margin protections for dairy farmers, and steps to advance carbon capture and utilization (CCUS) and biogas research.

The farm bill must now pass the U.S. House of Representatives.


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