House Ag Committee introduces 2018 Farm Bill draft

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Courtesy Wikipedia

House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (R-Texas) has introduced the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, House Resolution 2 — known informally as the 2018 Farm Bill.

In releasing the wide-sweeping legislative proposal April 12, Conaway said in a statement, “The farm bill keeps faith with our nation’s farmers and ranchers through the current agriculture recession by providing certainty and helping producers manage the enormous risks that are inherent in agriculture. The Farm Bill also remains faithful to the American taxpayer and consumer. Under the farm bill, consumers will continue to enjoy the safest, most abundant and most affordable food supply in the world, and taxpayers will reap the more than $112 billion in budget savings projected under the current law.”

The proposal addresses commodity programs, conservation, trade, credit, rural development, research, forestry, horticulture, crop insurance and nutrition. Each category or subject is referred to as a “title.”

In a University of Arkansas webinar held hours before release of the proposed bill, Pat Westhoff, director of the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri, outlined some of the possible changes and outcomes. The presentation is expected to be posted shortly to the University of Arkansas’ Food and Agribusiness Webinars website.

The Congressional Budget Office predicts total Farm Bill spending for all titles from 2018 to 2028 will be $867 billion. This is down nearly $90 billion from when the 2014 Farm Bill was passed.

The largest share belongs to the nutrition title, which is predicted to be $664 billion for the 10-year period. That title alone represents nearly 76.5 percent of all Farm Bill spending.

The second-largest title is federal crop insurance, accounting for is $78 billion over 10 years. It represents 9 percent of total Farm Bill dollars, but is nearly $12 billion less than when the 2014 Farm Bill passed.

The commodity title is the third largest within the Farm Bill and are projected to be $61 billion, up $17 billion from the January 2014 baseline. Not all of the increase can be attributed to lower commodity prices.

Also involved are improvements to cotton and dairy programs combined with the switch to PLC (Price Loss Coverage) from ARC (Agriculture Risk Coverage).

In providing input into drafting the Farm Bill, several groups have let their preferences be known.

The Heritage Foundation has stated it prefers less government, Westhoff says. The Environmental Working Group favors less emphasis on programs that aid larger-scale farmers and more focus on smaller-scale farms and conservation.

New to the 2018 Farm Bill is a requirement that most recipients of food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program either work at least 20 hours per week or undergo job training. It also would require drug testing of some recipients.

The proposal already has drawn fire from the Democratic National Committee, which issued a statement condemning the new requirements and saying they could derail passage of the legislation.

And non-Farm Bill issues — namely upcoming elections — could slow debate on the measure, Westhoff says. “If it’s not a priority, it could be very tough to get it done,” he says.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30, but it could be extended until new legislation is adopted.

To view a Farm Bill summary or the complete text of the proposal, visit https://agriculture.house.gov/farmbill/.

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