Friday, June 22, 2018

House finally but narrowly passes Farm Bill, with SNAP work requirements that appear doomed in the Senate

The House passed its version of the Farm Bill yesterday by a razor-thin margin of 213-211, weeks after the last version failed to pass because of Republican infighting over immigration.

"The farm bill got its votes, all Republican, after House leadership agreed to hold votes on immigration bills championed by conservatives. The initial immigration bill that GOP members wanted still failed earlier in the day," Chris Clayton reports for DTN/The Progressive Farmer. "Democrats remained unified against the House version of the farm bill because of changes in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that will make it more difficult for people without children to continue receiving assistance unless they are working or going through job training. The bill also makes it harder on states to raise income caps for people to remain on SNAP assistance," formerly known as food stamps. 

The Senate version of the Farm Bill has no such provisions, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has scheduled floor action on it next week. Once the Senate version is passed, the House and Senate will have to iron out the differences in the two bills and negotiate a final bill before the current farm law expires Sept. 30.

In addition to the SNAP provisions, the House bill also changes the way the Agricultural Risk Coverage program uses crop-insurance data to calculate yields, and eliminates individual farm coverage under ARC. It would also make changes in the two largest soil-conservation programs.

"The House bill would eliminate new signups under USDA's largest conservation program, the Conservation Stewardship Program," Clayton reports. "The contracts for the current 72 million acres in CSP would continue until they expire, but no new enrollment would be allowed. Instead, the bill would investment more in the Environmental Quality Incentives Program." A similar program, the Conservation Reserve Program, "would increase by 5 million acres, to 29 million acres, but would reduce rental rates to 80 percent of the current average county rental rate for ground. USDA would require more frequently updated rental rates under CRP as well," Clayton writes. "The Senate version of the bill would go to 25 million acres and lower rental rates to 88.5 percent of the county rental rate."

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