2018 farm bill

The Senate took a crucial step Thursday to making sure that, among other things, the hungry are fed, farmers have crop price protections and land is preserved beyond Sept. 30 — that is, the day the farm bill expires.

Thursday had all the makings of deja vu for the U.S. House’s farm bill draft: immigration concerns, uncertain Republican votes and a wall of Democratic opposition to changes in the main federal food aid program.

In the end, the chamber avoided a repeat of May’s failure, when members of the conservative Freedom Caucus wanted to deal with immigration first. But the farm bill passed Thursday — narrowly, 213-211. Still, 20 Republicans voted against it, as did every Democrat in the chamber.

The Senate Agriculture Committee unveiled its version of the farm bill Friday, including a path to legalizing industrial hemp. That’s an effort being pushed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose state, Kentucky, is a leader in the crop.

Editors note, June 28, 2018: The CDC says the data referenced in this story about farmer suicides is incorrect, due to "coding issues" and that the agency will work to correct the data, according to media outlet The New Food Economy. Updated suicide numbers for farmers have not yet been released.

Farming involves a degree of inherent risk, such as environmental and biological factors like drought and disease, which can come and go practically without warning. Depressed commodity and dairy prices and a burgeoning trade war are adding to that usual stress and taking a toll on farmers.

Two of the nation’s most influential players in agriculture policy, at a meeting in the heart of the country’s Grain Belt on Wednesday, tried to ease worries about the pending farm bill and a budding trade war with China.

Marshall Expects Farm Bill To Pass House In June

May 24, 2018
marshall.house.gov

Kansas Republican Representative Roger Marshall says that despite the Farm Bill failing to pass in the House last week, he still expects it to pass. 

No Democrats voted for the bill, and the Freedom Caucus, a small group of conservative Republicans, also withdrew their support until after immigration is discussed.

Marshall is on the House Agriculture committee. He says there are no plans to win over Democrats by backtracking on stricter work requirements for federal food aid.

Some conservative House Republicans made it clear Friday in voting down the 2018 farm bill: They’re not interested in a farm bill without working on immigration first.

Thirty Republicans and every Democrat voted against the farm bill, which failed 198-213 in the full House.

The first version of the 2018 farm bill has only minor changes to one of the programs most farmers hold dear and what’s widely seen as their primary safety net: crop insurance.

The program covers all sorts of crops, “from corn to clams,” Iowa State University agriculture economist Chad Hart said. But it’s not like the types of insurance most people are familiar with.

In the small city of Fort Morgan, Colorado, 33-year-old Verónica delicately stacks cans of food into her mini shopping cart, strolling the narrow aisles of the Rising Up food pantry to gather eggs, milk, apples and an extra-large box of cereal.

The farm bill traditionally is a bipartisan effort, but House Republicans’ proposed changes to the main federal food-aid program in this year’s version have struck a nerve. To move it through efficiently, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says he’ll appeal to President Donald Trump.

There’s a Republican-authored proposal in the next farm bill that would require millions more people to work or volunteer in order to receive federal food assistance.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the biggest federal program aimed at breaking the cycle of poverty that millions of Americans find themselves in — sometimes for a few months, sometimes for several years.

Held up over disagreements over federal food stamps, the first draft of the 2018 farm bill arrived Thursday, bearing 35 changes to that program, including starting a national database of participants.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30; in the past, Congress has had to extend their work beyond deadlines. The bill — released on Thursday — came from the House Agriculture Committee, which is headed by Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway.

Watershed conservation groups in Wichita made their pitch Wednesday for more money from the federal farm bill.

But for two Kansas congressmen, conservation falls a bit lower on the wishlist.

Sen. Pat Roberts says the level of federal subsidies for crop insurance will dominate this years farm bill discussion. Roberts, who chairs the Senate agriculture committee, talked about the issue on Friday.

At a farm convention in Kansas City, Roberts said a federal budget deal that included protections for dairy and cotton farmers against catastrophic losses could make passing a farm bill simpler.

Partisan politics may meet its match in the 2018 farm bill.

The massive legislation, versions of which will be introduced this spring in the U.S. House and Senate, is shaping up to be less about political affiliations and more about finding common ground.

Older Farmers Struggling In Silence

Jan 3, 2018
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There’s an eerie silence among aging farmers but that doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling.

As Politico reports, in recent months, lawmakers introduced legislation to make sure young farmers have their voices heard in the next farm bill.

Many rural businesses and farms will benefit from the tax overhaul passed Wednesday by Congress. But there’s a catch: If the changes fail to spur economic growth as intended, programs that rural areas rely on could be on the chopping block.

One provision in the massive bill, which President Trump has yet to sign into law, allows small business owners to deduct 20 percent of their business income. It also expands the deduction for small business investment — a popular provision among farmers, who can write off the cost of things like a new tractor.

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There are a lot of players in farm bill discussions nowadays, and as Politico reports, all of them - in one way or another - are related.

On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Tuesday, Elise Golan, sustainable development director at the USDA, said the farm bill is flawed in that it segregates by topics such as nutrition, trade, conservation and horticulture.

U.S. House and Senate lawmakers are still months away from passing a new Farm Bill. The legislation, which governs an array of federal agricultural and food programs, is set to expire in 2018.

Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry. That committee and the House Committee on Agriculture are currently working to rewrite the Farm bill.

Roberts says his goal is to get the bill passed in October, or at the very latest, early next year.

Trump Refers To Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts As 'Farm Guy'

Aug 17, 2017
U.S. Department of Agriculture

President Donald Trump refers to Kansas Sen. Pat Roberts as “Farm Guy.”

As The Dodge City Globe reports, Roberts appeared at High Plains Journal in Dodge City Tuesday to give a legislative update where the longtime senator told those on hand that the president referred to him as ‘Farm Guy’ during a recent meeting concerning crop insurance.

Roberts said another reason he met with Trump was to discuss exports – namely peanuts and cotton.

Farmers Like Trump But Worry About The Farm Bill

Aug 15, 2017
CCO Creative Commons

A new Farm Futures survey, as Politico reports, has found that 55 percent of farmers would give President Donald Trump an “A” or “B” if they were assigning a grade to him on domestic issues. 

The survey of 1,200 growers found that farmers are mostly good with the Trump administration’s domestic policies so far.

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Farmers and ag officials on hand for the Senate Agriculture Committee’s farm bill field hearing held in Michigan Saturday demanded more investment in international development, better crop insurance and a steady agricultural workforce.

As Politico reports, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts made it clear that when they develop the 2018 farm bill, lawmakers will be forced to “do more with less.”

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The state of the farm economy is helping agricultural groups and farm-state lawmakers make their case for preserving and possibly increasing funding levels in the 2018 farm bill but some last week argued against it.

As Politico reports, the Heritage Foundation, the Environmental Working Group and Taxpayers for Common Sense argued that the current downturn in an inherently cyclical market shouldn’t be used to maintain the status quo on farm policy.