Thursday, June 14, 2018

Senate Agriculture Committee advances bipartisan Farm Bill

Hemp farmers process a new crop in Nucla, Colorado.
(Denver Post photo by Andy Cross)
The Senate Agriculture Committee approved its farm bill on a 20-1 vote, sending it to the Senate floor for debate. It largely preserves the structure of the 2014 farm bill and keeps costs about the same, while including a provision legalizing industrial hemp. It doesn't include the expanded work requirements for food stamp recipients that the failed House bill had, Philip Brasher reports for AgWeek.

The Senate bill incentivizes rural and urban partnerships for conservation and provides mental health resources for rural areas, the Omaha World-Herald reports. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said it also includes "strong crop insurance, improvements to the ARC program and strong support for agriculture research" and "amendments to provide farmers and ranchers with access to more capital, as well as to make improvements to help make the wetland conservation title more farmer-friendly," Barry Amundson reports for the Duluth News Tribune.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., promised a full Senate vote on the entire bill before the July 4 recess. McConnell said he hopes the House will pass a farm bill, but said it will likely look different than the Senate's. "The House failed to pass a farm bill last month due to an immigration squabble among Republicans," Jeff Daniels reports for CNBC. Because of House in-fighting, the final farm bill is likely to strongly reflect the Senate version.

The only vote against the bill came from Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who objected to the language surrounding industrial hemp. Grassley said he believed any language about industrial hemp should not be included in the farm bill, but rather in another bill that would go through the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, Marianne Goodland reports for Colorado Politics.

There appeared to be another reason for Grassley's dissention: "Grassley had been pledging for days to force a committee vote on his proposal to tighten the definition of what it means to be 'actively engaged' in farming to be eligible for commodity programs," Brasher reports. "However, sources said he didn’t have the final version of the amendment ready in time because it had to be changed at the last minute to conform to changes made in the manager’s package of amendments. Grassley may get to offer the amendment on the Senate floor, but it’s possible he may require 60 votes to get it adopted."

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