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
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