Farm bill passes House, heads to Trump’s desk

Source: Cecelia Smith-Schoenwalder, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, December 13, 2018

The House this afternoon passed the bicameral farm bill deal, sending the five-year legislation to President Trump’s desk.

Trump is expected to sign the measure, which he said yesterday is in “very good shape.” He assured farmers that they will be “well taken care of.”

Lawmakers were quick to say that the legislation, which passed 369-47, does not please everyone and that large legislative packages often don’t.

“It doesn’t include everything I would have liked to have seen in this bill, but in reality, no piece of legislation is perfect,” said Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.).

The bill, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates will cost about $867 billion, would maintain government subsidies for crop insurance, allow farmers to grow industrial hemp, expand acreage in the Conservation Reserve Program and decrease funds for the Conservation Stewardship Program, among other things.

The 2014 farm bill expired Sept. 30.

Several Republicans expressed disappointment that the bill does not include stricter employment-related requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

On the other side of the aisle, some Democrats argued that the bill doesn’t address the real problems facing farmers and ranchers.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) said it won’t prevent small and medium-sized producers from being squeezed out by larger businesses. And the bill doesn’t include measures to adequately prepare farmers for climate change or to improve crop insurance, he said.

“We’re not investing in the future,” Blumenauer said.

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) said the bill doesn’t address the two biggest problems in the agriculture industry: overproduction and the trade war. He urged lawmakers to take more time to “get the policy right” because another farm bill will have to wait five or six years.

The bill’s rule, which was set by the House Rules Committee yesterday and included language on the Yemen crisis, squeaked through in a 206-203 vote. Democrats and some Republicans pushed back on the inclusion of the irrelevant language.

“What cruel irony that this rule dealing in part with too much food in America will deny food to millions in Yemen,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas).

House Democrats voiced the same concerns earlier this month when similar language was included in the rule for the “Manage Our Wolves Act” (E&E Daily, Nov. 14).

Newhouse said that House members will receive a classified briefing on the Yemen crisis tomorrow and will urgently take action if deemed necessary.