On Thursday, June 28, the Senate overwhelmingly passed (86 -11) the Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 (S. 3042), which reauthorizes and preserves important programs in the Energy Title (IX), the Conservation Title (II) as well as programs that help reduce energy costs and usage in rural communities, through the Rural Development Title (VI). Facing the worst farm economy in decades, as well as uncertainty around trade and tariffs, lawmakers are under additional pressure to reauthorize the Farm Bill prior to the September 30th expiration date.

The bipartisan Senate bill stands in stark contrast to the House version of the bill – the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2).  After failing once, the GOP-only bill squeaked by 213 – 211 late last week. H.R. 2 calls for stricter work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP aka ‘food stamps’) which represents nearly 80 percent of the bill’s spending.  The Senate bill preserves SNAP, only making changes around the program’s margins. Chairman Roberts (R-KS) and ranking member Stabenow (D-MI) were a united front against efforts on the Senate floor to include stricter work requirements under the Senate bill.

A small number of amendments were added to the Senate bill on the floor, including a payment cap for farm operations that would limit the number of operators could receive payment for any given farm.  Offered by Senator Grassley (R-IA), it has long been supported by family farm advocates and budget hawks. The base bill contains mandatory funding for the Energy Title programs and preserves important conservation programs as well as a few new and innovative programs that could help farmers address topics such as soil and pollinator health.

Now the bill goes to conference, leadership from both committees are responsible for hammering out a deal that both chambers can agree upon.


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