The Farm Bill expired on Sunday, Sept. 30, leaving several agricultural, environmental and nutrition programs and initiatives in limbo. The Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP), however, is permanent by statute and will continue even though the Farm Bill expired.
In June, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the “Agriculture and Nutrition Act” by Rep. Mike Conaway (R-Texas), and the U.S. Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill, the “Agricultural Improvement Act,” by Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan). Of note for Big “I” members, neither bill contains cuts to the FCIP after strong advocacy by the Big “I” against any cuts.
However, the bills significantly differ on several issues and are currently going through a process called “conference.” During conference, a committee of senior members of Congress work to draft a compromise bill that both chambers can accept. Both the House and the Senate must eventually pass identical legislation to present the bill to President Trump.
While members of Congress were appointed to the conference committee in July and early August, a final bill has yet to head to President Trump’s desk. Because some of the differences between the bills are contentious, the process for reconciling them has thus far proven difficult.
With midterm elections around the corner, Congress will be unable to take any formal action on the Farm Bill before mid-November. Nonetheless, efforts to push the 2018 Farm Bill across the finish line are expected to continue in earnest during the lame-duck Congress which will occur between the election and the new year.
As the process moves forward, the Big “I” will continue to update members on the status of the Farm Bill and its impact on the FCIP.
Jennifer Webb is Big “I” federal government affairs counsel.