As part of the year-end clean up, Congress approved an Agriculture Reauthorization. The bill was unveiled Monday night and then quickly approved by the Senate by a vote of 87-13, an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote by senators. The bill was largely a victory for Senate Republican and Democratic leaders over their House counterparts. Senators on both sides praised the final package which had languished in a House-Senate Conference since well before the pre-election break. The bill rejected House Republican efforts to cut assistance through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by increasing the current work requirements under the program. The “farm bill” is now more about nutrition and environmental protection. As a result, another part of the fight between the two houses were efforts to cut conservation programs. The bill also allows for a long-time goal of Senate Majority Leader McConnell by allowing hemp farming.
During the ongoing negotiations Senate Republican Chair Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) stayed united in their support for the Senate measure. Stabenow withstood attacks from the President during her reelection campaign. A lengthy statement by Senator Roberts said:
“The goal, the responsibility, the absolute requirement is to provide farmers, ranchers, growers and everyone within America’s agriculture and food value chain certainty and predictability during these very difficult times. This Farm Bill meets the needs of producers across all regions and all crops. And, it ensures that our voluntary conservation programs are keeping farm land in operation while protecting our agriculture lands, forests, and other natural resources.
The bill focuses on program integrity and commonsense investments to strengthen our nutrition programs to ensure the long-term success of those in need of assistance. And, with trade and market uncertainty, to say the least, it provides certainty for our trade promotion and research programs. Feeding an increasing global population is not simply an agriculture challenge, it is a national security challenge. This means we need to grow more and raise more with fewer resources. That will take investments in research, new technology, lines of credit, and proper risk management. It takes the government providing tools, and then getting out of the producer’s way.
Noting the strong and broad support the bill garnered Roberts went on to say:
“…This is what happens when the Congress works in a bipartisan, bicameral fashion. This is a good bill that accomplishes what we set out to do – provide certainty and predictability for farmers, families, and rural communities. We have made tough choices, being judicious with the scarce resources we have on behalf of the taxpayer. This may not be the best possible bill. But it is the best bill possible under these circumstances…”
Senator Stabenow joined in the praise saying,
“The 2018 Farm Bill is a bipartisan victory that has Michigan on every page. This is a strong bill that will grow Michigan’s diverse agricultural economy and support our farmers, families, and rural communities. I’m pleased the Senate has moved forward with the bill…”
The House gave approval to the bill on Wednesday before departing for the week.