After months of a Farm Bill “stalemate” — with disagreements on major titles such as nutrition, conservation, and most recently, forestry — it appears that an agreement on the bill has been reached and a conference report will be completed within the next few days.
The buzz about a new Farm Bill has been building during the lame-duck session in Congress (lame-duck refers to the time after elections where current congressmen and women come back from recess and before a new Congress is seated in January). This is due in part to concerns that holding off on passing the bill would allow the upcoming Democrat-led House a chance to rewrite the first draft introduced by the current members, of which are majorly Republican, which would further delay a new Farm Bill and have a negative impact on the agricultural industry.
While talk about a new bill being passed are cautioned by Congress members as being premature, it seems as though a breakthrough has been found. Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts said that resolutions had been made and the last hurdle to jump is the cost estimates that need to be finalized before an official announcement.
The final cost estimates are the 10-year cost estimates of the bill determined by the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO is a non-partisan organization that analyzes legislation from a financial viewpoint. This allows them to determine how much legislation, in this case a Farm Bill (formally known as the Agricultural Act), will cost over its lifetime. With each draft version of the proposed 2018 Farm Bill, a total of $867 billion was projected as the cost, without extensions, to the Senate draft over 10 years, and $865 billion for the House draft over the same amount of time. These numbers, released in a report from the Congressional Research Service, were assuming that the bill would be voted into law before the fiscal year ended in September. Since that fairy tale ending never happened, the CBO is working to provide an updated score for Congress as this article is being written, and therefore, could possible be the only hold-up to a formal announcement being made about a new bill being voted into law.
Of course, being turned into law could be an entirely different issue. Once both chambers of Congress have approved a final bill version, it will be left to President Trump to put into law. Trump has been outspoken over his threat to veto a bill that didn’t include stricter work requirements for SNAP benefits. As the largest portion of the Farm Bill, this $70 billion dollar program feeds over 40 million American’s and was the biggest fight between the House and Senate since the beginning of Farm Bill talks. The trouble is, the final version of the bill isn’t expected to include any major reform of the nutrition title whatsoever. It’s to be determined if the president will decide to accept it as is, or stick with his plan to veto.
Both the Senate draft and House draft bills were introduced before the July recess and immediately, the most controversial subjects caused tension- like SNAP and conservation. Fears of a new Farm Bill being passed before the Sept. 30 deadline were growing and became realized on Oct. 1, when many programs ceased to operate due to no agreements being reached in Congress.
Members of Congress have been working to reach agreements on the hot-button issues, but haven’t expressed any luck until this past week. They have also been silent in regards to details about final agreements on major issues but have been optimistic about a bill being passed soon, so long as cost analysis and legislative language have been completed.
Markie Hageman majored in agribusiness at Fort Hays State University. She is actively involved in her state Cattlemen’s Association, Young Farmers chapter, and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. Her AGDAILY.com articles can be found here.