The House Agriculture Committee approved a group of 15 Republican amendments to the panel’s farm bill that would modify a crop insurance restriction while addressing broadband, biotechnology, organic food standards and other issues. 

The GOP amendment package included one by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-Ill., that would remove a provision in the bill barring participants in the Agriculture Risk Coverage program from also buying a relatively new type of crop insurance called a Margin Protection plan.

The bill would still bar participation in area loss or yield policies or the Supplemental Coverage Option for the same commodity covered by ARC. The provision is intended to address criticism that ARC duplicates crop insurance coverage. ARC participants already are barred from having SCO policies for the same commodity.

An amendment by Neal Dunn, R-Fla., would create a Biotechnology and Agricultural Trade Program to advocate against foreign trade barriers that restrict the use of genetically-engineered commodities. Another Dunn provision would set up a national science-based education campaign to increase public awareness of the kinds of technology used in food and agricultural production. 

USDA would be required under an amendment by Ted Yoho, R-Fla., to report to Congress on plans for improving the regulation of gene-edited products. 

An amendment by Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo., would set a minimum standard of service for USDA broadband programs of 25 megabits per second for downloading and 3 megabits per second for uploading. The bill itself would authorize $150 million in broadband lending, which equates to about $1 billion in loans, along with $350 million in grants. Another broadband amendment by Austin Scott, R-Ga., would authorize USDA to make loans or loan guarantees for middle-mile infrastructure projects. 

Another Davis amendment would require the National Organic Standards Board to set up a procedure for companies or groups to petition the board for allowing new substances for use in organic food. 

A third Dunn amendment would require USDA to provide an updated estimate of the number of dogs imported to the United States, including those who have had inadequate health screening. 

An amendment by Mike Bost, R-Ill., would allow nutrient recovery systems to qualify as "new and innovative conservation approaches" for Conservation Innovation Grants. 

The committee was expected to debate two other Republican amendments before taking a final vote on the bill. One amendment by Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, attempts to stop states from imposing regulations that apply to foods grown or produced in other states. The second amendment, sponsored by Rep. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., would ban trade in dog and cat meat. 

Democrats did not plan to offer any amendments and were instead attacking the reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and other provisions in the bill, including the elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program. 

For a listing of all amendments offered, click here.

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