Lawmakers strike tentative deal on farm bill

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Friday, November 30, 2018

House and Senate negotiators on the 2018 farm bill said they’ve reached a tentative agreement on the five-year legislation.

In a joint statement, the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees said they’re finalizing legislative and report language, as well as cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office on the nearly $900 billion measure.

They didn’t release details, but in recent days, leaders have said the compromise legislation will steer closer to the Senate version in several key respects, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and forestry. The measure would renew crop programs, conservation, forestry and low-income nutrition.

Conservation groups have been looking for how negotiators will sort out contrasting versions of conservation programs, including the elimination of the Conservation Stewardship Program proposed in the House.

That program could, for instance, be combined with the Environmental Quality Incentives Program in ways that preserve the approaches of both programs, if negotiators settle on a middle ground.

The Senate version has wider support among environmental and conservation groups, which have criticized environmental rollbacks proposed by the House.

But conservative lawmakers and groups have lined up behind the House approach, which encourages more thinning of national forests to guard against wildfire, looser restrictions on some pesticides and tighter enforcement of employment requirements in SNAP.

Whether the farm bill is considered on its own or attached to separate legislation, such as a year-ending appropriations package, will be up to top congressional leaders, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) has said. But he told reporters yesterday that he believes a stand-alone bill is the more likely approach.

The 2014 farm bill expired Oct. 1.