NFU: Farm Bill Clears Congress, Awaits Trump’s Signature
After last week’s announcement that agriculture committee leadership had come to an agreement in principle on the 2018 Farm Bill, both the House and Senate hurried to pass the negotiated legislation before the end of the session.
All 807 pages of the bill’s finalized text were released on Monday of this week, to the relief of National Farmers Union (NFU) and many other organizations that had been on edge since the previous farm bill expired nearly 70 days prior. Neither chamber wasted time voting on the bill; the Senate passed it 87-13 on Tuesday, while the House followed suit on Wednesday afternoon, with 369 voting in favor and 47 against. The bill will require President Donald Trump’s signature by the end of the year in order to become law.
The passage of this bipartisan farm bill is welcome news in farm country, which has been experiencing its weakest economic conditions in more than three decades. Once signed by President Trump, the bill will offer some certainty and support to family farmers and ranchers enduring struggling markets and trade volatility.
Many of the provisions included in the bill are victories for Farmers Union members. For one, it includes some modest changes to the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) programs that would allow farmers to update their payment yields based on their 2013-2017 average yields per acre. Additionally, the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) will be replaced by Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC), which is more effective and attractive to smaller-scale producers. These changes to the farm safety net are an important first step in providing meaningful relief to family farmers, and NFU will continue to advocate for further improvements.
NFU was also pleased to see that conservation programs were left mostly intact, with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) kept as two distinct programs. Overall funding across conservation programs will be maintained, and the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage will be boosted.
A number of lesser-known but important “orphan programs” were also reauthorized and funded. Many of these support the development of local and diverse markets, such as the Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) and the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program (NOCCSP). In addition, the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network was reauthorized. Though the program has never before received funding before, NFU is optimistic that it will receive full funding of $10 million in the next appropriations cycle to provide mental health services to farmers, ranchers, and farmworkers.
What isn’t included in the bill is perhaps just as important as what is. On a positive note, negotiators did not incorporate stricter work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a provision that would have eliminated benefits for an estimated 1 million households. However, the bill also does not contain Senator Chuck Grassley’s (R-IA) proposal to strengthenpayment limitations for Title I programs. NFU supported the payment limits, as they would have ensured that federal commodity payments are directed only to farmers actively participating in both the labor and risk of a farm operation.
Read more in the NFU release, and stay tuned for additional information in the near future.