Senate Works Together To Pass Farm Bill Out Of Committee

Jun 15, 2018  | 4 min  | Ep4343

Since the 2014 Farm Bill was enacted, the drought-fueled farm income of the early teens has declined and a relatively low number of bankruptcies has risen. Along with unresolved trade negotiations, rural America is left searching for some sense of stability.

That safe harbor for farmers and ranchers may well be the Farm Bill. Work by the upper chamber on the measure was less contentious than in the House.

Paul Yeager has more. 

Sen. Pat Roberts: “Seeing a quorum, I call this meeting of the committee to order.”

The Senate Agriculture Committee spent part of the week marking up their version of the 2018 Farm Bill.

Members waded through 12 titles and 66 amendments for the industry that provides 16 million jobs in this country.

Sen. Pat Roberts, R - Kansas: “The absolute requirement for this committee is to provide farmer, ranchers, growers and everyone within the agriculture and food value chain certainty and predictability.”

Roberts says he heard producers tell him crop insurance was priority one in new legislation.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D – Ohio: “Everyone on this committee and full Senate even, has heard me talk about the importance of the Great Lakes and the fragility of Lake Erie.”

Sen. John Thune, R – South Dakota: “ARC did not receive the changes needed to make this program an effective safety net in the next Farm Bill.”

Sen. Kristin Gillibrand, D – New York, “Any problem, whether it is a drought in California, whether it is nuclear fallout coming across from Japan, it literally changes whether we can produce wholesome food in that part of the country.”

Sen. Michael Bennet, D – Colorado: “With the uncertainty in trade, immigration in my state and with commodity prices where they are, our farmers and ranchers desperately need this farm bill.”   

Sen. Steve Daines, R – Montana: “Active management enhances public safety, by reducing the threat of wildfire.”

Individual Senators spoke about important topics in their home states and how the Farm Bill will improve life in rural America through improvements in the conservation, food and nutrition titles.

Sen. Pat Leahy, D - Vermont: “Rural communities across Vermont and every corner of America, represent every single state here, will directly benefit from this bill.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell serves on the committee and touted the benefits of expanding assistance for hemp, a replacement crop for former tobacco farmers in his home state.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R - Kentucky: “Younger farmers in my state are particularly interested in going this direction. All the people in rural Kentucky sort of grew up with tobacco are hoping, that this will really be something.”

The Senate committee has worked in a bipartisan manner on the measure.

Sen. John Hoeven, R – North Dakota: “Good farm policy benefits every single American, every single day, because we have the highest quality, lowest cost food supply in the world.”

House vote: “On this vote, the yays are 198, the nays are 213, the bill does not pass.”

The House failed to pass their version of the Farm Bill as no Democrat and even some Republicans cited concerns over immigration and food assistance aspects of the bill.

Nutrition assistance has been less thorny in the Senate’s version, but there was still some tension among committee members.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R - Iowa: However the bill is, it’s not perfect, we must do more to help SNAP recipients rise up out of poverty. The U.S. economy is booming right now. For the first time on record, the number of job openings exceeds the number of Americans looking for work. We must seize this opportunity to help folks be self-sufficient.”

“Senator Grassley: “No.”

Senator Charles Grassley cast the lone dissenting vote. The Iowa Republican wants stronger language putting a cap on the amount of money farmers can get from the farm program. Grassley is unsure how he’ll vote in the full Senate version, but has a strong recollection of the last go round when his amendment advanced both chambers, but didn’t make it through conference committee.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R – Iowa: “They obliterated it, in other words, I got screwed in conference and consequently, that’s why I voted against the 2014 Farm Bill.”

Sen. Roberts:  “The ayes are 21 and the no's are 1.”

For Market to Market, I’m Paul Yeager.

Contact: Paul.Yeager@Iowa

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