The current Farm Bill is set to expire at the end of the month, so time is running out for the House and Senate to reach an agreement on a compromise bill. With only a few days left for negotiations, House and Senate leaders are starting to talk about extension.
AFBF president Zippy Duvall says farmers need and deserve action now on a new Farm Bill, “We’re facing a perfect storm where we don’t have a new farm bill yet, we have labor issues on the farm, commodity prices are low, and then we have that negative influence from the tariffs that are out there. So, farmers need some certainty in their future and the farm bill plays a major role in bringing some certainty to rural America.”
The main roadblock is the nutrition program. The work requirements in the House version are not acceptable to Senate leaders. IFB President Randy Kron says, “This is the main sticking point and where the negotiations have focused.” He added there are some differences on the conservation title, but they have to do primarily with where the money is spent not the total amount of dollars.
Duval says farm groups are urging lawmakers to just get it done, “Congress has done a great job getting this farm bill to conference. Now is the time to finish this deal. Our farmers and ranchers are depending on them to deliver a good risk management toolbox, so that we can have certainty in the future.”
While many members are talking about a possible extension to give the negotiations more time, Republicans in both chambers say they hope they can avoid that. The House version of the bill includes work requirements as part of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that are not in the Senate bill. Oklahoma Representative Frank Lucas, a former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, says the Senate has taken “a very hard-core position,” adding that the House language on work requirements will not be in the final bill, as passed by the House. However, Lucas says the Senate “is going to have to give,” adding “there is a compromise out there somewhere.” However, lawmakers must reach that compromise quickly to get an on-time Farm Bill.
On Wednesday, 350 Farmers Union members made the trip to Washington, D.C., to push for passage of a farm bill. Senators Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Charles Grassley of Iowa, and John Hoeven of North Dakota, and Reps. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts and Chellie Pingree of Maine all spoke to the group on the importance of congressional action on behalf of family farmers. “Family farmers and ranchers are in the midst of the worst decline in the farm economy in decades, and they want to see action from their federal representatives,” said NFU President Roger Johnson. “It is critical right now for family farm agriculture to have the support of Congress and the administration.”