Thursday, December 13, 2018

Farm Bill goes to Trump on strong bipartisan votes

The new five-year Farm Bill is headed to the White House for President Trump's signature after getting strong, bipartisan support; 87-13 in the Senate and 369-47 in the House. The roll calls "masked months of partisan and sometimes personal debate between ag leaders in both chambers," Ryan McCrimmon reports for Politico's "Morning Agriculture."

Outgoing House Agriculture Commottee Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas and his predecessor and successor, ranking Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota, "projected a positive working relationship for next year," McCrimmon reports, "despite the bitterly partisan experience in the House during this farm bill cycle. Peterson’s looking to build the Democratic bench on ag policy."

The House vote "shattered the record for most 'yes' votes for a farm bill, Conaway and Peterson said. The total for H.R. 2 included a nearly even number of Republicans (182) and Democrats (187) — a complete reversal from June, when the GOP-written Farm Bill squeaked through on a 213-211 vote with no Democratic support. Just three Democrats voted no on Wednesday: Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Ron Kind of Wisconsin and Lloyd Doggett of Texas."

In the Senate, the "no" votes came mainly from fiscal conservatives such as Rand Paul of Kentucky, even though the bill included what was once one of his signature causes, legalization of industrial hemp. The 807-page bill is a veritable Christmas tree of spending, including "provisions to create a feral-hog control project; extend a federal ban on animal fighting to U.S. territories; develop a crop insurance policy for hop producers; and set up a USDA office for urban agriculture and innovative production," McCrimmon reports.

He adds, "The only drama Wednesday was a narrow 206-203 procedural vote on the House rule, setting up the final Farm Bill vote, after House Republican leaders inserted controversial language in the rule to essentially block any House action on the war in Yemen for the rest of the session." That passed thanks to votes from Peterson and four other Democrats interested in the Farm Bill: Reps. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger's (Md.), Al Lawson (Fla.), David Scott (Ga.) and Jim Costa (Calif.).

The bill expands the Conservation Reserve Program to 27 million acres, an increase of 3 million acres, "with the cost offset by a lower rental payment to landowners," Chuck Abbott reports for Successful Farming. "Funding for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program would expand while spending on the green-payment Conservation Stewardship Program would drop."

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