What’s Moving on the 2018 Farm Bill?
April 7, 2018
The 2018 Farm Bill is primed to race from the stage of quiet paddling in the contemplative sloughs of drafts bills and individual congressional meetings to the stage of trying to stay afloat in rip-roaring political currents. The House Agriculture Committee released its proposed Farm Bill on Thursday, April 12 and is expected to schedule a “markup” (vote) in the next few days. Doubts abound as to the viability of the House version, given its cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, also historically known as Food Stamps) and measures other than crop insurance and major farm payments; it was drafted without Democrats’ input and may not succeed in its initial form, whenever it emerges. Floor action will follow the Committee’s markup, and the Senate will launch its own version, also expected soon. To put SNAP budget issues into perspective, it’s worth noting that the Congressional Budget Office’s projected costs for this Farm Bill are down from the last one, largely due to reductions in SNAP spending, which are down by 9 percent ($32 billion), as the economy recovers. The biggest increase in costs? Commodity program payments, up by 121%!!
The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and its members have been working for two years to advance a many-faceted agenda, from conservation to beginning farmer support, from crop insurance refinements to research. MFAI has been engaged in the conservation and crop insurance discussions, because these structural pieces so influence the future viability of agriculture in the Upper Midwest and the rest of the nation. NSAC staff and members have drafted several “marker bills” designed to move forward the Farm Bill agenda around many priority sustainable agriculture topics. These bills aren’t designed to pass by themselves but to influence the set of options being discussed and create strong bipartisan support in both houses of Congress for our Farm Bill proposals. Stay tuned to find out the latest information by going to the NSAC website; for a review of key proposals being discussed, see this recent NSAC blogpost.