Farm Bill Limbo Doesn’t Change the Needs of Rural People

Our last farm bill update covered the House of Representative’s Farm Bill that left out the nutrition title. Later the House passed a separate bill covering nutrition programs. That included a $40 billion cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a much bigger cut than the Senate Farm Bill.

Since then, the government shutdown and the Farm Bill expired – again! In mid October members of the House and Senate Agriculture Conference Committee were named. (See House members here and Senate members here.)

What does this mean for the Farm Bill? That remains to be seen. But whether it's a short-term extension or a final five-year bill, we will continue to press that a new Farm Bill should:

  1. Reform farm program subsidies to level the playing field by maintaining the effective payment limitations included in both the Senate and House bills.
  2. Maintain the income limitations to qualify for the full premium subsidy on federal crop insurance, as included in the Senate bill.
  3. Include a national Sodsaver provision for federally subsidized crop insurance to limit the incentive for converting native prairie to cropland.
  4. Fully fund innovative programs that help start small rural businesses, launch value added agriculture ventures, and establish beginning farmer and rancher opportunities on the land.

There is a real danger of losing these provisions in a deal-cutting extension or a final bill wrapped in a larger budget bill. Those deals are made by leadership of the Senate, the House, and the White House. If you remember, this is what happened on New Year’s Eve last year. Let’s remind those leaders that shouldn’t happen again.

If Congress does actually move to pass a stand-alone, five-year farm bill, there is also a real danger of losing farm program reform. Even though included in both the Senate and House versions, it could easily be stripped when hammering out a final bill. So we need to keep up the pressure.