GOP-led House passes farm bill

Colleen Kottke
Wisconsin State Farmer
Shutdown deal in works.

WASHINGTON — The Republican-led House has narrowly passed a sweeping farm bill that would toughen work requirements for food stamp recipients.

The bill passed 213-211.

Democrats opposed the measure, saying it would toss too many people off government food assistance.

The measure renews the safety net for farmers as President Donald Trump's tough talk on tariffs threatens to close markets for many of their products.

The vote Thursday marked the House's second attempt to pass a farm bill. GOP leaders suffered an embarrassing setback in May when 30 GOP members opposed passage in an effort to get a vote on immigration legislation.

The House bill sets up a certain clash with the Senate, which looks to make mostly modest adjustments to existing programs and doesn't pick a food stamps fight.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue hailed Chairman Mike Conaway and the House Agriculture Committee for their diligence and hard work in passing the bill through the House of Representatives.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue hailed Chairman Mike Conaway and the House Agriculture Committee for their diligence and hard work in passing the bill through the House of Representatives.

“American producers have greatly benefited from the policies of the Trump Administration, including tax reforms and reductions in regulations, however a Farm Bill is still critically important to give the agriculture community some much-needed reassurance," Perdue said. "No doubt, there is still much work to be done on this legislation in both chambers of Congress, and USDA stands ready to assist."

Wisconsin congressman Mike Gallagher voted for the bill which is central to supporting the dairy and agricultural heritage in his home state.

"Our farmers, and the milk and food they produce, support thousands of jobs in our state and ensure that millions of people across the globe have food on their plates," Gallagher said. "But unfortunately, farmers in (Wisconsin) and across the country have been suffering through the worst farm economy in over a decade, and have seen real farm income decline 52 percent in the last five years alone. And while the overall economy has grown, there are still millions of Americans suffering in the cycle of poverty. In fact, there are nine million more people on SNAP today than there was a decade ago.

Gallagher said the farm bill is critical to reversing these trends.

"It helps ensure our farmers are treated fairly in global trade, do not face undue regulatory burdens, and have effective risk management tools when they need them most.," he said. "More broadly, this year’s farm bill represents both a down payment on ensuring our nation has a safe, diverse, and abundant food supply, and also an effort to end the cycle of poverty by offering a hand-up to Wisconsinites in need.”

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, touts the newly-crafted farm bill during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 16, 2018, as the House plans to debate a long list of amendments on the controversial legislation. House Republicans favor a plan to strengthen work requirements for food stamps, but Democrats say that would hurt the poor.

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind of Wisconsin slammed Congressional Leadership for continuing a blatant attack on Wisconsin’s small and family farmers by passing the hyper-partisan 2018 Farm Bill.

“The Farm Bill that passed today in the House of Representatives lavishes millions of dollars of taxpayer subsidies on large agribusinesses and cuts vital conservation programs at the expense of our family farmers,” said Rep. Ron Kind. “We need a Farm Bill that will work for our family farmers in Wisconsin – not for powerful special interests in Washington.”

Rep. Kind introduced bipartisan amendments to the 2018 Farm Bill to create more transparency in the crop insurance and subsidy programs, protect the Conservation Stewardship Program within the Farm Bill Conservation Title, and avoid trade disputes with Brazil due to U.S. cotton subsidies.

His amendments were blocked by the House Committee on Rules. The first vote on the 2018 Farm Bill failed in late May, and was brought to the House floor for a second vote without debate or amendment consideration.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said today's passage of the House farm bill is a big win for America’s farmers and ranchers.

"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. 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 AFBF said it will continue to focus attention on other areas important to farmers, such as finding a solution for the very serious ag labor shortage, increasing market opportunities through trade and cutting the burdens of regulations that have piled up during previous administrations.

A group representing hundreds of Midwestern dairy farmers issued a statement regarding passage today of the farm bill by the U.S. House of Representatives.

Brody Stapel

Brody Stapel, farmer and president of the board of directors for Edge Dairy Farmer Cooperative, that represents hundreds of Midwestern dairy farmers, said farmers need the certainty that a farm bill provides, and was encouraged that the House took this critical step in moving the process forward.

“Tariffs, trade negotiations, immigration and other issues of late have kept the ground shaking for many dairy farmers and others in the agricultural community. Reauthorizing a farm bill would bring much-needed stabilization," Stapel said. “We urge lawmakers from both parties and the president to work together to approve a bill by the Sept. 30 deadline.”


National Farmers Union (NFU), a family farm organization who stood in opposition to the current form of the bill, is calling for continued improvement of the bill throughout the conference committee process that will occur should the U.S. Senate approve its version of the farm bill. 

NFU President Roger Johnson said he was "disappointed by many components of the House’s version of the 2018 Farm Bill."

Family farmers and consumers alike require strong safety nets, farm sustainability measures, and accessible markets. The need is especially pronounced as farmers struggle amidst a prolonged downturn in the farm economy and significant market volatility as a result of tensions with international trading partners," Johnson said. "We stand ready to work with members of Congress throughout the conference process to improve this legislation to meet the needs of family farmers and our food system.”

The National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) applauded the vote, saying cattlemen and women were "one step closer to much needed certainty."

"We are glad the House-passed bill addresses a number of priorities for producers, including authorization and funding for a national vaccine bank that prioritizes Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) prevention. The bill also strengthens conservation programs and improves USDA’s foreign market development activities," said Kevin Kester, president of the NCBA.

The ball is now in the court of the Senate, which is expected to vote on its version of the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 this month.

Stapel says both the House and Senate bills include important priorities for dairy farmers, including support for market development programs and a strong farm safety net.

The House and Senate must reach a consensus on a final bill for sending it to the president who must sign it for it to become law.

Associated Press contributed to this report