In a move which has been completely uncharacteristic during the whole saga of the 2018 Farm Bill, the Senate moved quickly to pass the bill on an 87-13 vote on Tuesday afternoon. The vote was held less than 24 hours after the Conference Committee Report was put into the hopper.
All indications were that the House was going to get to it first, with a vote during the middle of this week. The Senate was projected to get to it early next week. Ag groups applauded the Senate’s quick action. Ahead of the Senate vote, Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) reminded the members that farmers around the country were watching and hoping.
On Wednesday Afternoon the House took up the Farm Bill. This came up after a debate over a rider attachment limiting discussion on the civil war in Yemen. You can find more on that debate here.
House Ag Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-TX 11th) made the following comments on the floor of the house:
“Mr. Speaker, not since the early 2000s has a Farm Bill been more desperately needed than it is today.
Our farmers and ranchers are going through a very difficult recession right now. Net farm income is down 50 percent from where it stood just 5 years ago — the largest drop since the Great Depression. And farm bankruptcies are up by more than 30 percent. We have all seen the devastation of recent hurricanes and wildfires.
Less noticed…but no less destructive…is the severe drought that has gripped many parts of the country — perhaps none so much as mine. Even less noticed is the rampant cheating going on in global trade that hurts our farmers and ranchers every single day. China recently over-subsidized just three crops by more than $100 billion in a single year. Put in perspective, China spent more money on excess subsidies in a year than the entire U.S. safety net — covering all commodities — will cost over roughly two farm bills.
This is why passage of the Farm Bill is so important.
This farm bill has not been easy. The needs of farmers and ranchers are greater than they have been in a long time — but we’ve had to operate under a flat budget. For my colleagues who are concerned about deficit spending, please know that this farm bill is budget neutral. This follows on the heels of the 2014 Farm Bill which has come in significantly under budget.”
Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN 7th) made the following comments on the floor as well.
“The conference report we are considering today would reauthorize farm bill programs for five years. The 2014 farm bill expired on September 30th, and while the road to get here had a few bumps along the way, I’m glad that we were finally able to reach an agreement. Now it’s time to get this done.
During a time when rural America is facing a downturn in the farm economy and a trade war that’s taking its toll on crop, livestock and dairy producers from coast to coast, this bill will provide needed certainty to farmers and ranchers.
The bill continues a variety of commodity, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, research, energy and specialty crop programs. It also provides permanent mandatory funding for several of the programs that first got mandatory funding in the 2008 farm bill, when I was chairman. These include the Local Food & Farmers Market Promotion Program, Value-Added Producer Grants, the BFRDP Program, Organic Research, and the Section 2501 Outreach Program.
One of the most important pieces in this bill, however, is the improvement it makes for our dairy farmers. The economic downturn in farm country is hitting dairy hardest of all. In my home state of Minnesota and in neighboring Wisconsin, an average of two dairies are going out of business every day. The provisions in this bill will provide expanded, affordable coverage options and more flexibility for dairy farmers. I am proud to put my name on this program.
We are also providing $300 million in mandatory funding for animal disease programs at a time when our U.S. livestock industry is facing continued danger from unchecked threats. That money will go to increasing our ability to prevent and respond to animal pests and diseases that harm our animals and threaten the viability of our livestock operations.”
The Farm Bill will allow for changes to the ARC and PLC Programs. Allowing for adjustments if moving averages change, and also allow farmers more flexibility to change programs to fit their needs.
Conservation titles were another sticking point. There will be an increase in allowed CRP acres, but a decrease in payments. This is in hopes to reduce what some see as the misuse of the program by those who felt they could get more money in CRP than by putting land into production.
As a measure of the Farm Bill, industrial hemp will be tken off the controlled substances list. And make it available for the marketplace. This is a measure which has been a pet project of the Kentucky delgation, including Senate Leader Mitch McConnell.
A full list of highlights can be found here.
The House of Represenattives passed the bill on a vote of 368-47. The Bill now heads to the desk of President Trump. Farmers and ranchers across the country await the President’s signature on a bill that gives them five years of certainty.