An amendment included in the farm bill allows the Department of Agriculture to use funds for Cuba-related trade activities. The Amendment by Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota permits the use of Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development funds for Cuba.
The amendment, according to the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, represents not only the opportunity to increase the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture, but the first legislation passed regarding Cuba in 17 years. USACC Chair Paul Johnson called the inclusion a “step in the right direction towards normalizing trade with Cuba.
Heitkamp introduced the amendment in June with Senator, John Boozman of Arkansas, both members of the Senate Agriculture Committee. Heitkamp said at the time the legislation would “support farm families and rural communities, especially as they face uncertainty.” The amendment allows funding to go toward trade servicing, technical assistance, and trade promotion activities in Cuba.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, released the following statement after the House and Senate Farm Bill conference committee released the text of the 2018 Farm Bill conference report:
“The Farm Bill conference report maintains key elements I fought for in the Senate bill, such as protecting crop insurance, simplifying trade promotion programs, and unleashing more broadband infrastructure in rural America. The report also includes my Precision Agriculture Connectivity Act, a solution to find and close gaps in broadband connectivity across farm and ranch country. Nebraska ag producers want a clearer and more predictable guide for the future, and that’s what this bill will provide.”
Leadership of the farm bill conference report late Monday released the text of the bill to be considered by Congress later this week.
The 2018 farm bill, titled the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, reflects a hard-fought bipartisan, bicameral agreement on a five-year farm bill to strengthen U.S. agricultural, according to leadership. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts thanked his counterparts, in announcing the text, for “coming to and staying at the table to reach a bipartisan” agreement.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway says “passing a farm bill this week that strengthens the farm safety net is vitally important.” The conference report was signed by the Senate and House Farm Bill conferees and will be considered with a vote in both chambers, likely Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
The full text of the report is available here: https://docs.house.gov/billsthisweek/20181210/CRPT-115hrpt1072.pdf
Farmers are expressing concern over the lack of a new farm bill in the latest Purdue University/CME Group Ag Economy Barometer.
The monthly survey in November asked producers how concerned they were regarding the farm bill. 75 percent of respondents said they were either somewhat or very concerned about the lack of a new farm bill with 33 percent of respondents indicating they were very concerned. Just 24 percent of survey respondents said they were not at all concerned about the lack of new farm bill legislation.
The November survey reading announced Tuesday was 134, a decline of just over one percent from a month earlier when the barometer stood at 136. The November reading leaves the barometer six percent below its most recent peak, which was reached back in June before the impact of trade disruptions were felt throughout much of U.S. agriculture.
The Barometer surveys 400 agricultural producers monthly. Overall, a rating below 100 is negative, while a rating above 100 indicates positive sentiment regarding the agriculture industry.
A bipartisan deal on the multi-billion dollar farm bill would scrap new work requirements for some older food stamp recipients — rejecting a plan backed by House Republicans and President Donald Trump.
Lawmakers expect to vote next week on the tentative deal, announced Thursday by House and Senate negotiators.
Democrats and many Senate Republicans opposed the work requirements, which became the biggest stumbling block to an agreement on the farm bill. The legislation sets federal agricultural and food policy for five years and provides more than $400 billion in farm subsidies, conservation programs and food aid for the poor.
In a statement Thursday, House and Senate agriculture committee leaders from both parties said they had reached an agreement in principle but were working to finalize the bill’s language and costs.
“We still have more work to do. We are committed to delivering a new farm bill to America as quickly as possible,” said the statement by Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Reps. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, and Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
Roberts and Conaway chair the Senate and House Agriculture committees, respectively, while Stabenow and Peterson are the top Democrats.
Rep. Mark Walker, a North Carolina Republican who leads a group of House conservatives, said he was disappointed that the bill appears to leave out the new work requirements, a top priority for many House Republicans and Trump.
“House conservatives, the president and the vast majority of Americans support policies that encourage work and help lift people out of poverty,” Walker said on Twitter. “As I’ve said for months, those provisions have to stay” in the bill.
Work requirements for food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, were included in a bill that narrowly passed the House with no Democratic votes. A bipartisan version that won easy Senate approval did not include the requirements, and few Senate Republicans want them.
With the midterm elections turning control of the House over to Democrats, pressure increased on House Republicans to pass a compromise during the lame-duck session rather than start over in a Democratic-controlled chamber where the GOP was likely to suffer even greater policy losses.
The House passed its version of the farm bill in June on its second attempt, after a group of GOP lawmakers initially scuttled passage over an unrelated immigration issue.
Currently, able-bodied adults ages 18-49 without children are required to work 20 hours a week to maintain their SNAP benefits. The House bill raises the age of recipients subject to work requirements from 49 to 59 and requires parents with children older than 6 to work or participate in job training.
The House measure also limits circumstances under which families who qualify for other poverty programs can automatically be eligible for SNAP, and earmarks $1 billion to expand work training programs. By contrast, the bipartisan Senate bill offers modest adjustments to existing farm programs and makes no changes to SNAP.
Earlier this year, Trump signed an executive order directing federal agencies to enforce existing work requirements and review all programs, waivers and exemptions. Throughout the negotiation process Trump has made clear he supports work requirements, tweeting about the issue multiple times.
The two chambers also clashed over portions of the forestry and conservation titles of the bill. Negotiations were further complicated in recent days when the White House asked Congress to make changes to the forestry title in response to deadly wildfires in California, giving more authority to the Agriculture and Interior departments to clear forests and other public lands.
A farm bill agreement could be announced yet this week. Leadership of the farm bill conference committee reports a deal is close, with a possible announcement this week and a more detailed announcement to follow next week, according to staffers close to the negotiations.
A move towards an agreement would set the stage to allow Congress to consider final passage of the bill this year. Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says a full agreement depends on the cost analysis. There is little time in the lame duck session to complete the bill, as lawmakers are scheduled to exit Washington by mid-December.
Still, all sides appear committed to finishing the bill this year, ahead of a new Congress that offers a change of control in the House of Representatives. Collin Peterson, incoming chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, has previously said he wants the bill done now, before the next Congress, which would likely require a rewrite of the legislation.
As agriculture eagerly awaits a farm bill, another hurdle has emerged. Now, a forestry dispute appears to be in the way, according to Politico. Pat Roberts, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, continues to insist that the conference committee negotiators are “close” to reaching an agreement.
He says finding an agreement on the forestry title is the biggest obstacle. That’s because lawmakers are considering whether or not the title will include active management of areas at risk to wildfires, a request by President Donald Trump but opposed by Democrats and environmental groups. Opposition says active forest management could “devastate forests” and “wipe out plants and animals.”
Roberts told reporters earlier this week that if the issue is settled, “that would indicate that the light went from yellow to green” on the entire conference report.
Lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., this week with a need to still find a path forward on the farm bill. However, multiple measures, including 2019 appropriation bills, must also be passed in the lame-duck session.
The House is scheduled to leave on Thursday, December 13th, while the Senate is scheduled to adjourn on Friday, December 14th. But, Congress could stay in session longer if the necessary end-of-the-year business is not completed by the target dates, according to the Hagstrom Report. Leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees say they still hope to finish a farm bill this session, but they have not shown signs of reaching a final agreement.
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley has hinted that the farm bill might be added to the appropriations bill so that House leadership would not have to bring it up as a separate piece of legislation. Meanwhile, Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, who will chair the House Ag Committee next year, says that if the bill does not pass, he wants to organize his committee quickly in January and bring up the farm bill in short order.
House Ag Chair Michael Conaway and the GOP conference committee members have to decide whether or not they’ll give some ground on some of the biggest sticking points of the farm bill debate in order to get a bill passed this year.
Those disputes include conservation, commodity policy, and work requirements for SNAP program recipients. Politico says reaching a deal while they still hold the majority in the House of Representatives would help Republicans reach some of their goals before they lose their leverage. House Democrats could choose to start from scratch next year when they assume control, which Politico says the industry might not want to see.
It’s possible that Democrats may pull the farm bill to the left with amendments to rein in subsidies on wealthy farmers or adjust federal crop insurance. Ranking member Collin Peterson of Minnesota won a close race on election day and is expected to retake the gavel as chair of the House Ag Committee. Peterson has said he would prefer to not start over and write a new farm bill.