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U.S. lawmakers make progress on new Farm Bill

U.S. lawmakers make progress on new Farm Bill

Senate and House members have agreed to the legislation in principle

By Diego Flammini
Staff Writer
Farms.com

U.S. legislators could pass a key piece of ag legislation before control of the House of Representatives shifts to the Democrats.

Yesterday, members of the Farm Bill Conference Committee announced they’ve made progress on the 2018 Farm Bill.

“We’re pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement in principle on the 2018 Farm Bill,” Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, said in a joint statement.

“We are working to finalize legal and report language as well as (Congressional Budget Office) scores, but we still have more work to do. We are committed to delivering a new farm bill to America as quickly as possible.”

Mike Conaway, chair of the House Committee on Agriculture, and Ranking Members Debbie Stabenow and Collin Peterson, also supported the joint statement.

The lawmakers found a way to get passed a hurdle that initially stalled Farm Bill talks.

While details of the bill haven’t been released, it won’t include stricter work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, CNN reported. The requirements appeared in the original version of the House’s bill, but not in the Senate’s.

Minus the work requirements and some other compromises, the 2018 Farm Bill could look very similar to the 2014 bill that expired in September. The new bill would also restore funding to several important programs, said Amy Hagerman, an ag policy professor at Oklahoma State University.

“I think we’ll see a bill that’s close to what the 2014 (one) was,” she told Farms.com. “The expiration of the 2014 bill on September 30th halted about 40 programs that had to wait for a new Farm Bill. One of the programs that stopped was the Foreign Market Development program. Farmers really need that program to help expand exports.

“We’re also getting into the 2019 crop year and I think going into that, farmers really like the security of a five-year bill rather than a one-year extension.”

Producers are pleased to see a new Farm Bill close to completion and would welcome an official announcement before Congress breaks for Christmas, said Curt Mether, president of the Iowa Corn Growers Association.

“We’re pretty excited about the work they’ve been doing and how quickly it has progressed,” he told Farms.com. “Farmers don’t like uncertainty, so a new bill would give farmers a sense of security so they know what’s coming and can prepare accordingly.”

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