The Senate on Tuesday approved an $867 billion farm and agricultural bill.  In a 87-to-13 vote, the Senate approved the legislation, which was unveiled on Monday, after several months of closed-door negotiations. On Wednesday, the House easily passed the farm bill by a vote of 369 to 47, sending the bill to President Trump to sign.

The five-year legislation largely continues current farm and nutrition policy and is projected to cost $867 billion over a decade.  The current farm bill lapsed on September 30, but senators viewed the end of the year as their hard deadline, with numerous programs expiring this month.

President Trump must sign the bill it into law before the end of the month. “I have all the confidence in the world that he will sign it,” said House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX)

The bipartisan vote for the bill ends an eight-month fight over the legislation marking a quick turnaround for House and Senate negotiators who were deadlocked in efforts to resolve disputes over food stamps. Congressional negotiators said they also faced increasing pressure to complete the bill from farmers and ranchers who have suffered declines in commodities prices amid the ongoing trade war with China.

One of the most controversial element of the farm bill debate has been over differences between the House and Senate approaches to food stamps or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP).  SNAP, which helps nearly 40 million people at $70 billion a year, accounts for more than three-quarters of farm bill spending.

The House Republicans had sought to impose stricter work requirements on millions of food stamp recipients, a priority for House Speaker Paul Ryan and conservatives. The House GOP proposal would have forced states to impose work requirements on those aged 49 to 59 who got food stamps.  It would have also forced states to impose work requirements on parents with children ages 6 to 12.  One estimate found those proposal could mean that 1.1 million households would face cuts to benefits.  Cuts to food stamps would have caused about 1.5 million people being dropped from the program, according to Congressional Budget Office projections.

Democrats unanimously opposed the House plan and Senate leaders also rejected it because overhauling SNAP could not clear the 60-vote threshold required in the Senate.  The final bill dos not alter SNAP benefits or change eligibility for the program in any significant way.

“The 2018 Farm Bill is our opportunity to make the American food and agriculture systems work more efficiently.  I’m pleased to say we have done just that in this conference report.  I thank my counterparts in the Senate and House for coming to and staying at the table to reach a bipartisan agreement for rural America,” said Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, in a statement.

The legislation also allocates billions of dollars in subsides to American farmers, legalizes hemp, and bolsters farmers markets. Farm subsidies and conservation and rural development programs are expected to cost $867 billion over a decade.

The bill combines USDA’s export promotion programs for funding purposes, including the Market Access Program (MAP) and the Foreign Market Development (FMD) program. The new, consolidated program will be called the Agricultural Trade Promotion and Facilitation Program. MAP would continue to be funded at $200 million annually and FMD at $34.5 million annually. The bill authorizes $3.5 million of the total, consolidated funds to be dedicated as a “Priority Trade Fund,” where USDA will have the authority to allocate money in this fund among the above programs. Mandatory funding for the program is established permanently under the final bill.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue expressed support for the legislation in a statement on Monday morning.

 

 

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