The Senate Ag Committee passed its version of the Farm Bill this week and will be sending it to the floor before the chamber’s July recess. The bill passed with a 20-1 vote, with the sole “no” vote coming from Sen. Chuck Grassely, R-Iowa, because his amendment to limit subsidy payments wasn’t added to the bill. There were more than 180 amendments total.
Many have expressed their approval for the bipartisan bill, titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, including American Farmland Trust.
“AFT, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food, applauds Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Roberts’ and Ranking Member Stabenow’s bipartisan draft of the 2018 Farm Bill for maintaining the Conservation Title funding baseline, making improvements to the administration of the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP) and including support for programs that benefit next-generation farmers,” the organization said.
“We urge the Senate to continue this positive path forward and pass this bipartisan farm bill with no harmful amendments that restrict or cut SNAP,” stated Nebraska Appleseed Economic Justice Director James Goddard in response to the Senate version of the bill.
Politico.com stated that “the meeting, held in the committee’s ornate hearing room, lasted two-and-a-half hours and was so harmonious that almost every amendment put forth for a vote was cleared by a simple voice vote, and very few proposals even sparked a stray ‘no’ from lawmakers in the room. But the bill, which spans more than 1,000 pages, diverges in many ways from the controversial House version, setting up a potentially difficult conference if both bills can make it through their chambers.”
For as much praise as the bill is getting, there is some negative feedback — especially considering the stark difference between the approach to SNAP programs between the Senate and House.
“The biggest point of contention between the two bills is still sure to be over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which makes up the vast majority of the farm bill’s price tag. The Senate bill was built on such a firm consensus on the nutrition title that not a single member of the Senate Agriculture Committee offered an amendment related to SNAP. The bill doesn’t seek new work requirements or significant changes to eligibility standards, but focuses instead on a making a series of administrative changes geared in part toward combating fraud.” Politico also stated.
Another negative view comes from the livestock industry and a stable vaccine bank for Foot and Mouth Disease. With the Senate bill, the draft prioritizes the Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine stockpile and places it in the hands of the Secretary of Agriculture. However, funds were not specifically set for the bank, which is cause for concern to the livestock industry. Ag Net West explains the vaccine bank desires of the National Pork Producers Council, which states that it would cost the beef and pork industries $128 million over 10 years, should an outbreak occur and farmers couldn’t combat the disease with vaccinations. The House bill included a one-year funding total of $150 million.
For the legislative text and amendments in the Senate, you can read this.
As far as the House version of the bill, there aren’t any set plans yet to reconsider, although, it has until June 22 to do so. Tuesday night, an agreement was reached regarding the immigration legislation that was used as leverage to tank the H.R. 2 back in May. This could potentially allow their version of the bill to pass on the floor.
Markie Hageman is a senior, majoring 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. Follow her seriesexploring various parts of the next Farm Bill.