Apr 20, 2018
2018 Farm Bill advances from House Ag Committee

The House Agriculture Committee on April 18 marked up HR2, the 2018 Farm Bill, and sent it to the full U.S. House of Representatives for consideration.

According to media reports, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Oklahoma, asked his colleagues to vote to send the bill forward, even though many expressed disappointment in how the bill was written. Lucas, who chaired the House Agriculture Committee from 2011-15, said the farm bill never passed the committee in 1996. In 2014, 218 House members didn’t support the farm bill, he said.

“Let’s move forward, let’s keep working,” Lucas said. “Let’s get . . . to the next step.”

The majority of committee members agreed with Lucas, voting to advance the bill from committee.

“Today’s vote was about America’s farmers and ranchers,” said committee chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, in a statement. “It was about a better future and greater opportunities for SNAP recipients. It was about fulfilling an obligation to lead, rather than standing on the sidelines.

Ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said the bill was flawed and the result of a “bad and nontransparent process.

“More than nine months ago, we began discussions on a bipartisan farm bill,” Peterson said. “I saw this process as a way to work collaboratively and produce a work product where so many in this town have fallen victim to politics. We wanted to get to a bipartisan bill. In our discussions, we were able to find common ground on quite a few areas but, as anyone who has been through this before knows – and I’ve been through a few farm bills – nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.”

He highlighted four areas of concern:
  • Repeal of the broad-based categorical eligibility;
  • Severing the link with the low-income home energy assistance program
  • Creating a vast new state system of employment and training mandates
  • Child support piece

Ag groups respond

“The 2018 Farm Bill is ready for debate and amendments a mere six days after its introduction. A vote by the full House of Representatives is expected to soon follow. This is great news for farmers and ranchers everywhere. H.R. 2 – The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 –  takes us one step closer to bringing certainty to families who face the toughest farm economy in more than a decade,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall.

“The SCFBA (Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance) appreciates House Agriculture Committee Chairman Conaway for recognizing the importance of specialty crops in this initial legislation, which includes baseline funding of specialty crop programs included in the 2014 Farm Bill,” said Robert Guenther, Senior Vice President, United Fresh Produce Association. “However, the Alliance urges the House to enhance the bill by increasing the investment in specialty crop priorities — such as fully funding the TASC program, increasing funding for the Specialty Crop Research Initiative and the Alliance’s policy recommendations throughout the bill.”

“So few amendments offered to such an important and wide-ranging bill can mean only one of two things: either members of the committee think it’s near-perfect, or the House farm bill process is deeply troubled,” said Lindsey Lusher Shute, co-founder and executive director of National Young Farmers Coalition. “Failure to pass a farm bill this year would be a significant setback for young farmers. While Congress sits in its committee room arguing, young farmers are putting everything on the line to grow food for the nation. Farmers need members of Congress to back them up and support the programs that make a difference. We appreciate that the draft House bill addresses some of the challenges that young farmers now face, but it also eliminates programs that they rely on and further undermines their ability to compete.”

 





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