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House Ag Committee Passes 2018 Farm Bill

The bill heads to the floor for full House vote.

WASHINGTON - On a party-line vote, the House Agriculture Committee approved a five-year farm bill on Wednesday that tweaks the supports now in place – a promise of certainty, leaders said, during a period of low commodity prices and threats of a trade war with agriculture on the front line.

There was no new funding for the 2018 farm bill, so farm supports would be little changed from levels set in the 2014 farm law. The bill would expand the Conservation Reserve to 29 million acres from the current 24 million acres, eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program for working lands, and extend the list of people eligible for crop and conservation payments.

Agriculture chairman Michael Conaway said the bill would be called for a House vote “as early in May as we can get.” It would spend nearly $87 billion a year with food stamps accounting for three-fourths of the outlays. 

Democrats on the committee sent a letter to President Trump suggesting the administration work with Congress to modify the farm bill during House and Senate action to increase PLC reference prices, “increase funding to fight trade barriers across all agriculture sectors,” and improve the dairy subsidy program. The changes would provide a long-term response to tariffs on U.S. farm exports, they said. 

Farm Bureau president Zippy Duvall said Agriculture Committee approval, on a 26-20 roll call, “takes us one step closer to bringing certainty to families who face the toughest farm economy in more than a decade.” The Farmers Union opposed the bill and called for language to increase PLC reference prices and more funding for working lands and energy programs. “We cannot support a bill that does so little to improve the farm safety net, and one that guts important conservation and market access programs.”

All Democrats on the committee voted against the bill and all Republicans voted for it. Republicans control the House 237-193 with five vacancies. They would need near-unanimity to pass the bill without the support of Democrats, who oppose the bill’s major changes to food stamps. The leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee have said they intend to write a bipartisan bill that will pass with the support of at least 60 and perhaps as many as 70 senators.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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