By Gwendolyne Honrud
The Courier 

Legislators Fail to Reach Agreement on Farm Bill

 

October 3, 2018



The conference committee attempting to reconcile differences between the House and Senate versions of the 2018 farm bill failed to reach a consensus. New work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program included in the House version have been cited as a major source of contention in negotiations, though differences remain regarding Title 1, price and income supports given to certain commodity producers.

Key programs such as SNAP and crop insurance programs will continue to receive funding because of appropriations or having been authorized under other laws. The Conservation Reserve Program will still operate but will be unable to make any new agreements with or award new grants to farmers. The Congressional Research Service has identified at least 39 programs which have lost authorization and/or funding as of Monday, Oct 1. Programs designed to assist veterans entering farming, small rural businesses and trade promotion are among the “orphan” programs that have been shut down.


Negotiations are in the hands of Representatives Michael Conway, R-Texas, and Collin Peterson, D-Mich., and Senators Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich. No short-term extension was brought to the House floor before the chamber recessed. Stabenow and Peterson maintained the real deadline for passing a final bill is December since many baseline programs will remain funded until that time. However, the failure to pass the farm bill comes amid other uncertainties currently faced by farmers, including droughts, low market prices, and global market tensions.

Senator Jon Tester, D-Mont., urged Congress to return to the bipartisanship they have shown in the past regarding the farm bill. In a statement released by his office, Tester said, “It is time for Congress to to quit making hay out of the Farm Bill and put our bipartisan solution on the President’s desk. I will hold Washington accountable to Montana farmers and ranchers to ensure they have the certainty they need to prepare for the next growing season.” He also touted the support the Senate farm bill garnered from organizations in Montana, including the Montana Grain Growers Association and Montana Farm Bureau Federation.

Farm bills have, in the past, been touted as bipartisan accomplishments, but this year’s bill appears to be subject to more partisan disagreements than others. Representative Ralph Abraham, R-La., has taken aim at Sen. Stabenow, accusing her and Senate Democrats of moving the goal posts, while Stabenow has fired back, blaming House Republicans for focusing on politics rather than a compromise. The House farm bill narrowly made it to conference committee, passing with a 213-211 vote, with no Democrats voting in favor of the bill. The Senate version passed easily and went to committee with a vote of 86-11.


As of press time Sen. Daines and Rep. Gianforte's Offices had not responded to requests for comment.

 

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