The U.S. Senate passed (86-11) a Farm Bill that continues subsidies for farmers along with the federal crop insurance and food stamp programs for five years.
The $867 billion Senate bill also contains an amendment to prevent the National Flood Insurance Program from expiring at the end of July in the middle of the hurricane season. The amendment would extend the NFIP for six months.
The Senate version does not, however, include an expanded work requirement for food stamp recipients, which is in the House Farm Bill. The House bill with the food stamp work requirement passed 213-211 with no Democrats in favor.
The House and Senate bills now go to a conference committee to iron out a compromise. The bills include a wide range of provisions that impact farmers, the rural economy, and food and nutrition programs. Some current farm programs begin to expire on Sept. 30.
U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, applauded the bipartisan vote in the Senate.
“Today marks an important day for farm country. We are one step closer to providing farmers and ranchers a Farm Bill with the certainty and predictability they deserve,” said Roberts. He called the Senate version a “budget neutral Farm Bill with broad support.”
“The 2018 Senate Farm Bill proves that bipartisanship is a tried and true approach to getting things done,” said Stabenow. “By working across the aisle, we crafted a Farm Bill that strengthens our diverse agricultural economy and all the jobs it supports in Michigan and across the county.”
Charles Symington, senior vice president of external, industry and government affairs for the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”), welcomed the Senate action.
“The Big ‘I’ supports a strong crop insurance program and opposed two amendments to the Farm Bill that would have increased the cost of crop insurance for farmers. Over 12,000 insurance agents assist farmers in obtaining crop insurance every year, and crop insurance is a critical risk management tool for farms of all types and sizes,” Symington said.
The bill recognizes hemp as a covered product— a change advocated by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R.-Ky., who hopes his state’s farmers will benefit. It also requires that loss adjusters and agents of approved crop insurance providers be familiar with conservation activities and agronomic practices through continuing education.
A recent A.M. Best special report noted that multiperil crop insurance declined to $10.1 billion in 2017 because of lower crop prices, after peaking at $12.4 billion in 2011. The market has undergone significant consolidation, the report also noted.
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