Jun 21, 2018
2018 Farm Bill legislation passed by House

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives narrowly passed its draft Farm Bill late Thursday afternoon, June 21.

The margin was just two votes, 213-211.

The bill failed to pass the House during its first vote a month ago – mass media outlets reported Republicans couldn’t gather their votes due to conservatives frustrated with separate immigration legislation. Since that time, the Senate has passed its own version of the farm bill.  

“Today’s vote was about keeping faith with the men and women of rural America and ab out the enduring promise of the dignity of a day’s work,” said Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. “It was about providing certainty to farmers and ranchers who have been struggling under the weight of a five-year recession and about providing our neighbors in need with more than just a hand out, but a hand up.”

While the Senate Bill had bipartisan support, the House Bill attempted to reform the USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The reforms have opposed by House Democrats across the board.

“Another shameful day in the House,” tweeted Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon. “GOP turns its back on family farmers & our most vulnerable & passes #GOPFarmBill. This fight isn’t over. Now we have to work even harder to make sure it doesn’t become law.”

In a written statement, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said he applauded Conway and the House ag committee for passing the bill.

“American producers have greatly benefited from the policies of the Trump Administration, including tax reforms and reductions in regulations, however a Farm Bill is still critically important to give the agriculture community some much-needed reassurance,” he said. “No doubt, there is still much work to be done on this legislation in both chambers of Congress, and USDA stands ready to assist with whatever counsel lawmakers may request or require.”

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) represents more than 120 specialty crop organizations growers of fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products across the United States. SCFBA said in a news release that many of the specialty crop provisions that were included in the 2014 Farm Bill have remained part of H.R. 2, including key specialty crop priorities such as:

•Specialty Crop Block Grants ($85 million/year)

•Specialty Crop Research Initiative ($80 million/year)

•Trade Programs including MAP ($200 million/year) and TASC ($9 million/year)

•Pest and Disease Programs ($75 million/year) and National Clean Plant Network ($5 million/year)

•Food Insecurity and Nutrition Incentive Program (FINI) (Increased to $285 million over five years)

A variety of agriculture trade groups and associations also released statements applauding Thursday’s vote on the farm bill in the House:  

Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) President Dennis Slater:

“Sound agricultural policy promotes a strong farm economy and a strong U.S. manufacturing sector. This includes 320,000 agricultural equipment manufacturing jobs across America. That’s why we are glad to see the House of Representatives pass a Farm Bill that recognizes the importance of crop insurance to our overall economy. We also applaud the inclusion of the Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act of 2018 as it will help prepare our farms and ranches for the 21st century. AEM encourages the Senate to act swiftly by passing their own version of the Farm Bill so we can provide America’s farmers and ranchers with a robust safety net.”

National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President Chuck Conner:

“The National Council of Farmer Cooperatives applauds House passage of H.R. 2, the farm bill, this afternoon. We look forward to the Senate taking up its version of the bill in the very near future. Assuming Senate approval of its measure, we urge both chambers to move quickly to a conference committee to work out differences in a bipartisan fashion. America’s farmers and ranchers deserve the certainty that a new farm bill will provide ahead of the expiration of current law on September 30.”

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall:

“Passage of the House farm bill today is a big win for America’s farmers and ranchers. Our grassroots Farm Bureau members clearly made their voices heard. By approving the 2018 Farm Bill today, members of the House recognized the serious economic challenges facing farmers and ranchers across the country.

“As crafted by Chairman Conaway, this bill recognizes what is working well, but it also makes much-needed improvements in risk management and crop insurance programs at a time when farm-income levels have slumped to decade lows. This would not have been possible had it not been for Speaker Ryan making the farm bill a congressional priority, and for all the hard work invested in the process by Chairman Conaway and other members of the House Agriculture Committee.

“We look forward to continuing our work with Senate Agriculture Committee leaders Roberts and Stabenow as they move forward. The Senate bill also addresses the challenges our farmers and ranchers are facing today. We will also continue to focus our attention on other areas important to farmers, such as finding a solution for the very serious ag labor shortage, increasing market opportunities through trade and cutting the burdens of regulations that have piled up during previous administrations.”

Independent Community Bankers of America President and CEO Rebeca Romero Rainey:

“ICBA and the nation’s community bankers appreciate that the full House was able to pass the farm bill today. Although there are sharp partisan differences regarding nutrition and other programs, we believe that a bipartisan compromise can eventually be reached by Congress as the House and Senate bills move forward.

“Such an outcome is necessary to ensure producers and their lenders have a degree of price protection and predictability for the next five years. Producers and other stakeholders in our rural communities need the safety net that a farm bill provides given the sharp drop in net farm income in recent years and the uncertainties over trade issues.

“ICBA has urged Congress to maintain commodity price protections and a strong crop insurance program. ICBA also supports the bill’s increase for guaranteed farm loan limits to $1.75 million from $1.39 million, in addition to other important programs, and opposes granting the Farm Credit System new lending powers.”

American Farmland Trust:

American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food, supports today’s passage of the House Farm Bill as “an important milestone for farmland and ranchland protection and a vital step in the passage of a timely 2018 Farm Bill.  The Farm Bill provides essential funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), along with other important conservation programs and beginning farmer programs.”

AFT’s recent report, “Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland,” showed that the loss of farmland is serious and accelerating. Almost 31 million acres was lost to development between 1992 and 2012, nearly twice the area of farmland was lost than was previously shown.

“That’s 3 acres a minute, 175 acres an hour, gone forever. We need farmland to feed us and sustain our economy – but also to help restore our planet,” said John Piotti, president and CEO of AFT. 

“The Farm Bill gives us a chance to stem the loss,” he continued. “Restoring funding to ACEP at $500 million annually — as it was in 2017 — is an essential first step. The House version of the Farm Bill does that and AFT urges that this level of funding be established in the final bill.”

AFT considers ACEP to be one of the most powerful tools available to protect farmland. Since its founding in 1980, AFT has worked with state and local entities and agricultural land trusts  – many of whom utilize ACEP funds – to protect over 6.5 million acres. 

Stephen Kloosterman, Assistant Editor



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