Washington, DC (June 21, 2018) - After a month of political gamesmanship to force votes on controversial Immigration Reform measures, the U.S. House narrowly approved their version of the 2018 Farm Bill, 213 – 211 in a re-vote of the same measure that failed in May.
Congressional Democrats were unanimous in their opposition to the Farm Bill, while another 20 Republican members also voted against the bill.
Officially known as the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conway (R-TX) called the legislation critical to addressing the economic challenges facing the nation’s farmers, while also making significant investments in opportunities for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.
“Today’s vote was about keeping faith with rural America and about the enduring promise of the dignity of a day’s work,” Rep. Conway said. “It was about providing certainty to farmers who have been struggling under the weight of a five-year recession and about providing our neighbors in need with more than just a hand out, but a hand up.”
Rep. Conway said he’s now looking forward to working with the U.S. Senate in conference committee and the president to deliver a Farm Bill on schedule.
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President, Zippy Duvall called passage of the House Farm Bill a big win for America’s farmers and acknowledged that Farm Bureau members clearly made their voices heard and that House members recognized the serious economic challenges facing U.S. farmers.
“As crafted by Chairman Conaway, this bill recognizes what is working well, but it also makes much-needed improvements in risk management and crop insurance programs at a time when farm-income levels have slumped to decade lows,” Duvall said. “This would not have been possible had it not been for Speaker Ryan making the farm bill a congressional priority, and for all the hard work invested in the process by Chairman Conaway and other members of the House Agriculture Committee.”
Duvall said the Farm Bureau will also focus attention on other areas important to farmers, including a solution for the severe agriculture labor shortage, in light of the two immigration proposals meeting defeat in the House as well today.
Ag-friendly Immigration Reform legislation, used as a bargaining chip by the Freedom Caucus to earn their support of the 2018 House farm bill, was rejected, 193 – 231 shortly before the Farm Bill vote. The so-called Goodlatte immigration bill (HR 4760), which would have included a guest worker provision for agriculture, was one of two immigration reform proposals considered.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) board of directors voted unanimously to support House passage of H.R. 4760, based on the strength of agricultural labor provisions included in the legislation just hours before the House vote.
Another immigration package (HR 6136), was viewed in some political sectors as either a compromise or a capitulation to President Donald Trump’s insistence on a border wall at an estimated cost of $23 billion and budget cuts to legal immigration programs.
The package reportedly would have given legal status to 800,000 immigrants who came into the country as children, but contained no provisions for providing much-needed reforms to the H2A Agricultural Seasonal Guestworker.
Rather than cast a final vote on HR 6136, House members opted instead to refer the package, along with the failed Goodlatte proposal to conference committee in a last-ditch effort to develop a compromise Immigration Reform package.
The following is a statement from North Dakota farmer Kevin Skunes, president of the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), on House passage of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2).
“Today’s vote is a big step forward to seeing a new farm bill this year. The House farm bill maintains a robust crop insurance program, ensuring it continues to be a viable risk management tool for farmers across the country.
“Now we will be looking toward the U.S. Senate and possible efforts to further strengthen the farm safety net, making it more equitable for our nation’s corn growers, as they bring the Senate Agriculture Committee’s farm bill to the floor.”
National Sorghum Producers appreciates the hard work Chairman Conaway and the House Agriculture Committee have done to create a strong farm bill for rural America. H.R. 2 gives farmers the stability they need to continue to provide the safest, most affordable food supply in the world while contributing to America’s energy independence.
“We especially thank Chairman Conaway and staff for their work in putting together a strong bill for sorghum farmers, particularly given the limited budget resources available,” NSP Chairman Don Bloss said.
NSP fully supports a timely passage of the farm bill, and continues to support the work being done in the Senate. NSP will continue to work with lawmakers to reach the ultimate goal of having a bill in place by the end of the year. Due to the current farm economy and trade uncertainty, sorghum producers need the strong, reliable policy provided in the farm bill.
The National Cotton Council (NCC) strongly supports the farm policy provisions in the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (Farm Bill) and believes the House passage of the bill is an extremely important and strong step toward providing much needed stability to the U.S. cotton industry.
NCC Chairman Ron Craft, a Plains, Texas, ginner, said, “our industry is tremendously grateful for House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway’s (R-TX) leadership in the development of this legislation and getting it to a successful vote in the House.”
He said the industry also appreciates the strong support from Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) and the many Cotton Belt Representatives in helping to get this farm legislation through the House without damaging amendments such as those that would compromise crop insurance and impose stricter payment limits and eligibility provisions.
“Without strong commodity and crop insurance policies underpinning U.S. agriculture,” Craft stated, “lenders would be reluctant to provide financing to an industry operating at the mercy of weather extremes and volatile global market prices.”
Craft said this farm bill not only can help cotton producers obtain the financing necessary for capital investments and annual crop production but can support a healthy and thriving rural economy that includes cotton gins, warehouses, marketing coops and merchants to market the crop, cottonseed handlers, and textile manufacturers – and the businesses that support them.
“The NCC is continuing to work with the Senate to reverse the harmful changes made to cotton policy during last week’s Senate Agriculture Committee consideration of its farm bill, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,” Craft said.
The full Senate may consider its farm bill the week of June 25.
American Farmland Trust, the organization behind the national movement No Farms No Food, supports today’s passage of the House Farm Bill as an important milestone for farmland and ranchland protection and a vital step in the passage of a timely 2018 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill provides essential funding for the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP), along with other important conservation programs and beginning farmer programs.
AFT’s recent report, “Farms Under Threat: The State of America’s Farmland”, showed that the loss of farmland is serious and accelerating. Almost 31 million acres was lost to development between 1992 and 2012, nearly twice the area of farmland was lost than was previously shown.
“That’s 3 acres a minute, 175 acres an hour, gone forever. We need farmland to feed us and sustain our economy—but also to help restore our planet,” says John Piotti, president and CEO of AFT.
“The Farm Bill gives us a chance to stem the loss,” he continued. “Restoring funding to ACEP at $500 million annually -- as it was in 2017 -- is an essential first step. The House version of the Farm Bill does that and AFT urges that this level of funding be established in the final bill.”
AFT considers ACEP to be one of the most powerful tools available to protect farmland. Since its founding in 1980, AFT has worked with state and local entities and agricultural land trusts —many of whom utilize ACEP funds — to protect over 6.5 million acres.
Importantly, the House bill also improves the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), boosting funding and adding provisions to help project partners measure beneficial outcomes. This will enable RCPP to model how other federal programs can more effectively achieve conservation goals. The bill includes two new initiatives—a Commission on Farm Transition and a Farmland Tenure, Transition and Entry Data Initiative—that AFT believes will provide valuable insights to guide future policies to attract and support the next generation that works the land.
“In the next 10 to 15 years, one-third of agricultural land will change hands,” says John Piotti “We know that ACEP is a vital tool in addressing the enormous land transition challenge ahead. Selling an agricultural conservation easement allows farmers and ranchers to extract equity from their land without selling it for development. It can finance retirement and help transfer the family farm to the next generation. It also makes land affordable for the next generation. Tools like the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program (BFRDP) are also needed, and we applaud the House for making farm transfer and succession a specific, allowable focus of that program.”
AFT notes that Farm Bills have historically relied on bipartisan support, as well as cooperation between the agricultural, anti-hunger and conservation communities. Said Piotti: “As this process moves forward, we urge Congress to maintain this traditional bipartisanship and collaboration. We look forward to working with both sides of the aisle in both the House and Senate as the bill moves through the legislative process.