It’s a key week for the 2018 farm bill. House and Senate staff and principal negotiators are trying to bridge differences in time to pass a compromise farm bill back through both chambers and get it on the president’s desk by the end of the month when current law expires.
“By the middle to the end of this week we’ve got to get a compromise put together if we want to in reality get a bill to the president’s desk,” says American Farm Bureau farm bill adviser Andrew Walmsley.
He remains optimistic after last week’s only required public farm bill meeting of House and Senate negotiators.
“I think there’s a lot of need right now in farm country and pressure on congress to get a farm bill done, and I think you’re seeing that commitment that’s hopefully getting us beyond any partisanship and really taking the seriousness of the need to get a farm bill done now.”
Walmsley echoed the comments of Senate Ag Chair Pat Roberts, who cited a pathway to overcome the most nettlesome House-Senate difference over tightened food stamp work requirements in the House bill.
Walmsley says the key drivers for a farm bill remain the clock and the need.
“With anything in Washington or anything in life, if there’s a willingness there’s a way, and I think we’re seeing that,” he said. “So, I think it’s important, particularly at this point for farmers and ranchers to continue to apply pressure to their members of congress on the need to get a bill done.”
Walmsley says progress has been made in weeks of behind the scenes talks. He says Congressional Budget Office cost-scoring may be needed on some items, but if those are the types of issues outstanding, there’s reason for optimism to complete a farm bill by the end of September.
Given the glut of issues farmers are facing, AFBF President Zippy Duvall says agriculture needs timely passage of the 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.”
Duvall says the 2018 farm bill includes critical risk management tools that will give agriculture stability during tough economic times.
“The most important things about the 2018 farm bill are the risk management tools that are going to be available to our farmers. In a very vulnerable market they can take out crop insurance to protect them from risks that they might have in the marketplace or with extreme weather conditions.”
The head of the nation’s largest farm organization adds Congress needs to pass the farm bill now.
“Congress has done a great job getting this farm bill to conference,” Duvall said. “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.”
Sources: NAFB News and AFBF