After months of partisan negotiations and some missed deadlines, the Agriculture Improvement Act — better known to all of us as the 2018 Farm Bill — has gotten President Donald Trump’s signature and is now law. The $867 billion legislation is in effect for five years.
Despite the long and sometimes agonizing slog to get to this point (lawmakers released the first draft in April), the final efforts happened relatively quickly amid this lame-duck Congress. A tentative agreement was reached a little over two weeks ago, the final text was released in the Farm Bill Conference Report early last week, and full Senate gave the bill the green light on Tuesday, Dec. 11, while the House followed suit a day later. The votes in both chambers were overwhelmingly in favor of the bill. Trump opted to wait about a week to sign it, putting his name to it shortly after 3:30 p.m. ET today.
The signing was livestreamed on the White House’s YouTube channel:
“Through fires, floods, and freezing weather, we will always stand with the American farmer,” Trump said in remarks during the signing ceremony. The president thanked many of the people who offered input into the bill and worked on its successful passage.
“It’s a great day for agriculture,” said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who was celebrating his 72nd birthday. The bill is important “to give producers, ranchers, and farmers the peace of mind going forward that they can make their plans for the new year.”
This speed of the final Farm Bill’s passage was largely due to Republicans wanting to maintain their bargaining power over the final wording of the bill, because come January, Democrats will take control of the House. It’s expected that items such as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program formerly known as food stamps), which makes up a massive chunk of this bill (more than three-fourths) and has very little to actually do with food production, would have faced additional scrutiny and changes.
Notably, the 2018 Farm Bill includes expanded safety-net programs for both crop producers as well as dairy farmers, the latter of which is being celebrated in states such as Wisconsin and Minnesota.
“America’s farmers and ranchers are weathering the fifth year of severe recession, so passing a farm bill this week that strengthens the farm safety net is vitally important,” House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway (R-Texas) said in a statement.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), who is one of only two farmers in the Senate and a member of the Agriculture Committee, remains critical of the final bill, specifically the portion pertaining to federal subsidies for distant relatives. He joined just a handful of Republicans who voted against the bill.
“I’m very disappointed the conferees decided to expand the loopholes on farm subsidies,” Grassley said before the vote. “I’ve been trying to make sure the people who get the subsidies are real farmers. … I’ve been trying for three years, and it gets worse and worse and worse.”