A Farm Bill Emerges With Bipartisan Support

Farm Bill ( MGN )

House and Senate negotiators Monday evening released the text of a farm bill that mostly makes tweaks to the provisions of the 2014 bill it replaces.

House and Senate ag leaders are expected to push for quick votes on both sides of the Capitol later this week.

One of the most significant changes to the bill will allow growers to eventually choose between the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) annually starting in 2021. Under the previous bill, farmers were required to choose one program or the other for the five-year life of the bill.

The bill allows for up to a 15% increase in reference prices depending on market conditions. It also provides adjustments to lessen sharp discrepancies in payments for neighboring counties.

Base acres that have been converted to grassland will not be eligible for ARC or PLC, but land owners can apply for a Conservation Stewardship Program contract at $18 per acre.

“America’s farmers and ranchers are weathering the fifth year of severe recession, so passing a farm bill this week that strengthens the farm safety net is vitally important,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Tex) in a statement. “I am grateful to the President, Secretary Perdue and my leadership for standing fast for the hard-working farm and ranch families that clothe and feed us. I also appreciate the members of the conference committee for bringing this process one step closer to completion.”

Conaway will discuss details of the farm bill on Tuesday's AgriTalk Radio Show.

“By working across the aisle, we overcame many differences to deliver a strong, bipartisan farm bill for our farmers, families, and rural communities,” added Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) “The 2018 Farm Bill is a good bill for our farmers and everyone who eats. Working together, we continued to expand the diversity of our agricultural economy, maintained a strong food and farm safety net, created new opportunities in our small towns and rural communities, and made significant investments in land and water conservation. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels – it’s time to get the bill across the finish line as soon as possible. I urge my colleagues to support this bill.”

That finish line could come as early as this week. The House is expected to vote on the conference bill Wednesday with the Senate slated to consider it on Thursday, according to Pro Farmer Washington Analyst Jim Wiesemeyer.

The farm bill was initially stalled by disagreement over work requirements for some food stamp recipients, but that issue was largely sidestepped in the final bill. Some adjustments were made designed to reduce fraud in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP.)

Despite a push from Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) to reduce income limits for farm program payments, that limit to adjusted gross income remains at $900,000 with a payment limit of $125,000. The bill includes an adjustment to allow cousins, nieces, nephews and their spouses who are involved in the farming operation to receive program payments.

The bill includes $30 million annually for a national animal vaccine bank. It also includes a provision championed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to legalize the production of hemp.

If the farm bill is approved by Congress and signed by the president, it will be the first time since 2002 that a farm bill is passed the same year it was introduced.

View the full text of the Conference Report on the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 here.