Written by David Castellon
Members of the House and Senate agricultural committees report that a new U.S. Farm Bill deal could come before year’s end.
“We’re pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement in principle on the 2018 Farm Bill. We are working to finalize legal and report language as well as [Congressional Budget Office] scores, but we still have more work to do. We are committed to delivering a new farm bill to America as quickly as possible,” state duplicate postings on both committees’ websites this morning.
The announcement is credited to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minnesota, along with Senate Agricultural Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R- Kansas, and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.
The last Farm Bill was passed in 2014 after a year’s delay, setting funding for the Department of Agriculture and numerous ag-related programs from federal crop insurance to research to protect ag commodities to promoting sales of U.S. ag products in foreign countries.
But the majority of the funding controlled by the bill goes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as “food stamps,” the nation’s largest program to provide food for families in need.
Funding and the provisions to receive SNAP benefits have been major points of contention in current and past Farm Bill negotiations.
Both the House and Senate agricultural committees had passed their own versions of the bill, with a noticeable difference being that the House version called for work requirements for SNAP recipients and, according to some reports, would have cost as many as 2 million adults and children their benefits.
House and Senate ag committee members failed to negotiate a compromise bill before the mid-term elections and holiday break. There were concerns the lawmakers might have to extend the current bill into 2019 if they couldn’t agree to and pass a compromise bill before the end of December, after which the House and Senate would have to start over again.
And with a shift coming to the House in January as Democrats will hold the majority there following the elections, concerns existed of whether Democrats might not want to complete the bill this year and instead develop a house version in 2019 that more favors their interests, as well as whether Republicans on the House Agricultural Committee might be willing to compromise in order to pass a bill by the end of this year.
The online posting about the initial agreement between both sides was just two paragraphs long and gave no detail of where the compromises were made.
Passing the bill before year’s end is no sure thing — even with an apparent agreement in place — as there are only a finite number of days the House and Senate will be in session over the coming month, and in that time they would have to finalize a compromise bill, generate a conference report, have both houses approve a bill and then get the president to sign it.