Democrats, Republicans Tentatively Agree on Farm Bill with Crop Insurance

By , and Teaganne Finn | November 30, 2018

Democrats and Republicans said they reached a tentative deal on farm legislation after jettisoning controversial work requirements for food stamp recipients demanded by President Donald Trump and conservatives in the House.

Lawmakers said Thursday they expect both chambers to take up the legislation as soon as next week after House-Senate negotiators resolved differences between their versions of the agriculture measures. The bill would renew farm subsidies, federal crop insurance and food aid for low-income families for five years.

House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway of Texas and Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas, along with the top Democrats on the panels, said they reached a tentative deal without detailing all the provisions. Farm programs under current law began to expire Sept. 30.

“The certainty that the farm bill brings to the table for the next five years is the win,” Conaway said.

Work Rules

The biggest stumbling block in the debate over the farm bill, H.R. 2., has been over expanding work requirements for many people who receive food stamps. House Republicans had proposed making older food stamp recipients and those with older children comply with work requirements, while Senate negotiators opposed those changes.

The House provisions were left out of the final bill, according to Roberts. He said the bill strengthens existing work requirements without adding new ones and without shifting food stamp funding into job training.

“It’s more the Senate version than the House version,” Conaway said, adding that the bill will include more provisions to root out food-stamp fraud. “Everything we had in the House bill was important but we made the compromises we needed to make to get this deal done.”

Another snag resolved by negotiators was a push by Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to enact more permissive logging regulations. Roberts said the compromise involves easing the ability of loggers to salvage wood from fire-damaged areas.

Small Changes

Minor changes may be made once the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office evaluates the bill’s impact on the deficit. Lawmakers said the final version will be made public next week. Roberts said the deal hasn’t yet been presented to Trump.

Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, predicted the bill would get strong support from lawmakers in his party.

Conservatives indicated displeasure. Asked what he thought about the farm bill, GOP Representative Ted Yoho of Florida said “not much” when he came out of a briefing on the agreement.

In September, Trump tweeted: “Pass the Farm Bill with SNAP work requirements!” SNAP refers to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps.

The bill doesn’t include a provision championed by Senator Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican, aimed at preventing wealthy absentee landlords from collecting farm subsidies.

“You are going to have Wall Street bankers getting subsidies who aren’t actively engaged in the business of farming, they don’t have dirt under their fingernails,” he said.

The bill includes a provision that would make hemp a legal agricultural commodity after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky championed the proposal, even joining the farm bill conference committee to ensure it would be incorporated. Among other changes to existing law, hemp will be removed from the federal list of controlled substances and hemp farmers will be able to apply for crop insurance.

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