Farm Bill Fails in House

Late last week, the U.S. House of Representatives voted down H.R. 2, “The Agriculture and Nutrition Act” by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), by a vote of 198-213. Seventeen representatives did not vote.

This failure to pass the Farm Bill makes it more likely that the House will continue to negotiate the bill into 2019. Currently, the House is expected to have a do-over vote in late June, but prospects for passage remain in limbo.

The close no vote last week was mainly a result of political wrangling over an unrelated immigration bill, as well as controversy related to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Members of the House continue to debate these issues.

During debate on the bill, Rep. Tom McClintock (R-California) introduced an amendment that would have effectively eliminated the crop insurance program. The amendment was considered but failed in an overwhelming 380-34 vote, in large part due to Big “I” opposition.

Specifically, the amendment would have phased out premium discounts to farmers by 10% per year, with complete elimination in 2030; phased out administrative and operating payments for private-sector delivery of crop insurance by 10%per year, with complete elimination in 2030; and required negotiation of a new Standard Reinsurance Agreement, among other things. The Standard Reinsurance Agreement is the operating agreement that insurers and agents enter with the federal government to service the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP).

The Big “I” actively opposed Rep. McClintock’s amendment, and more than 47 Big “I” state and local associations joined more than 400 insurance, banking and agricultural groups in sending a letter to every member of the House urging them to oppose amendments like it. 

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee continues to work on its own version of a Farm Bill. Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) recently stated that he hopes to bring a bill up for consideration in early June. 

The Big “I” supports the FCIP because crop insurance is critical for the security of America’s economy and food supply. The crop insurance program is an example of a successful private-public partnership in which independent agents play a vital role.

Jennifer Webb is Big “I” federal government affairs counsel.