Competing Federal Farm Bill Proposals Work their Way through Congress
The US House of Representatives and US Senate are each building support for a Farm Bill to replace the current bill that expires September 30, 2018.
The bill under consideration in the US House was written by Republican members of the House Agriculture Committee and approved by the committee without any Democratic support. While Republicans have a majority of seats in the US House, their Farm Bill proposal was rejected 198-213 on May 18 when the members of the Freedom Caucus in the House refused to support the Farm Bill unless they were first able to vote on unrelated immigration bills.
Now that votes on immigration bills have been scheduled, it is expected that the Farm Bill may be brought back for another vote by all members of the US House. If the members of the House Freedom Caucus – estimated to be around 36 members – each switched their vote on the Farm Bill from No to Yes, that would be enough to allow the Farm Bill to pass the House.
A separate bill is under consideration in the US Senate. While Republicans have a majority of the seats in the US Senate, Senate rules require 60 votes to move on most legislation, including the Farm Bill, so it will require support by both Republicans and Democrats to pass. The Senate’s Farm Bill was written by both Republican and Democratic members and was approved by the Senate Agriculture Committee on June 13 with a vote of 20-1. A vote on the bill by the entire Senate has not been scheduled.
Of the two bills, the Senate version is more favorable to farmers’ markets with continued mandatory funding for programs like the Farmers’ Market Promotion Program (FMPP) and Local Food Promotion Program (LFPP). Earlier this year, the Farmers Market Coalition announced its opposition to the US House Farm Bill because of its lack of investments into local agriculture programs like FMPP. PCFMA is a member of the Farmers Market Coalition and supported that decision.
If each house of Congress passes their own versions of a Farm Bill, a conference committee with representatives from both houses will be appointed to develop a compromise bill that will then need to be approved by each house. If this process is not completed by September 30 when the current Farm Bill expires, then new federal spending for programs like FMPP and LFPP will cease until the bill passes and is signed by the President.
To learn more about the Farm Bill and its progress, we suggest these resources