Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), speaking after the farm bill passed with a vote of 86-11, said, “We passed a farm bill today that supports the 16 million jobs in America that depends on agriculture. We passed a bill that will help our farmers stay resilient, that protects our land and water, that helps families keep food on their tables, that invests in our small towns all across America.”
The bill now moves on to a likely July negotiation with the House, where the main point of contention will be the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps.
Indiana Democrat and member of the Senate Ag Committee Joe Donnelly highlighted some important facets of the bill.
“The bill includes a number of my provisions that help combat the opioid epidemic by targeting telemedicine and community facility program investments for substance abuse treatment and investing in prevention and education programs. It supports conservation by eliminating potential disincentives for voluntary conservation practices, like cover crops, and it supports soil health improvement programs. It also allows states to increase cost sharing for the most impactful conservation practices.”
The Senate approved a CRP rider by South Dakota’s John Thune to allow harvesting of CRP acres on a rotating basis, and other flexibility.
“We have to plead with USDA to allow emergency haying and grazing. This also would eliminate the need for that on a periodic basis when we face those conditions in states like South Dakota and other states across the country.”
One rider by Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, already embedded in the bill, would end subsidies to those who don’t work on farms–allowing payments for active managers only. The House bill lacks the provision.
Another amendment to restrict livestock check-off programs went down to defeat.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell put his political weight behind swift passage of the bill, that included his measure to legalize industrial hemp—key for his Kentucky farmers.
“Now the time has come to deliver. The farm bill is too important a subject to keep our farmers and their families waiting after all the groups charged with advocating on their behalf overwhelmingly support it. More than 500 industry groups and advocates representing agriculture, food, nutrition, hunger, forestry, conservation.”
Donnelly has said that farmers need certainty during these tough economic times. He says trade concerns and falling commodity prices were factored in as best they could.
“Tariffs have always been in our minds during this process. It’s part of why we worked hard to increase funding for the Market Assistance Program, the Foreign Market Development Program.”
Donnelly met with President Trump at the White House Thursday evening. In a release, Donnelly said, “When it comes to our country’s trade challenges, we discussed our shared desire to crack down on bad actors, including China. I also relayed to President Trump the growing concerns I’ve heard from Hoosier farmers about falling commodity prices and the uncertainty created by current trade policy.”
Donnelly also discussed with the president the Supreme Court vacancy created by Justice Anthony Kennedy saying, “When the president presents the Senate with his choice for the Supreme Court, I will thoroughly review the record and qualifications of that nominee.”