The Senate on Thursday passed the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (S. 3042), commonly known as the Farm Bill, by a vote of 86 to 11. The House passed its version of the Farm Bill, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), on June 21.As in the House legislation, the Senate bill combines USDA’s export promotion programs for funding purposes, including the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program. MAP would continue to be funded at $200 million annually and FMD at $34.5 million annually.

The bill authorizes $6 million of the total, consolidated funds to be dedicated as a “Priority Trade Fund,” where USDA will have the authority to allocate money in this fund among the above programs. Included in the bill was an amendment by Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and modified by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) that will allow MAP and FMD funds to be used in the Cuban market.

An amendment approved in committee by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND), and modified by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), would raise the limits on USDA guaranteed and direct operating and ownership loans. The limit on guaranteed loans would be raised to $1.75 million from $1.39 million. The limits on direct ownership loans would be raised to $600,000 from $300,000 and the direct operating loan would be raised to $400,000 from $300,000.

The Senate bill authorizes the creation of a Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine bank but does not earmark funding for it. The House bill would provide $150 million in one-time funding.

The bill authorizes appropriations for $30 million annually for five years for research at the National Animal Health Laboratory Network. It also establishes a National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank for acquiring vaccine and veterinary countermeasures needed to respond to animal disease outbreaks. Funding levels for the program would be decided “as necessary” in annual appropriations bills.

The House and Senate will now go to conference after the July 4 recess. Once the conference committee agrees to an identical bill, both chambers will re-vote on the bill. If passed, the unified bill will go to the President for his signature.