Farm Bill Discussions Move Forward

The current Farm Bill expired on Sept. 30, leaving several agricultural, environmental and nutrition programs and initiatives in potential 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.

Because the bills significantly differ on several issues, they are currently going through a process called “conference.” During conference, a committee of senior members of Congress work to draft a compromise bill both chambers can accept.

While members of Congress were appointed to the conference committee in July and early August, reaching agreement on a consensus bill has faced contentious debate. At press time, the conference committee is reportedly close to reaching agreement on a final bill. Any final bill will likely make only relatively minor changes to current FCIP operations.

Should the conference committee release a compromise bill this week or next, the bill will still have to pass both houses of Congress before adjournment in mid-December, and must also be acceptable to President Trump. Farm Bills have garnered Presidential vetoes in the past.

The Big “I” will continue to advocate on our members’ behalf and provide updates on the status of the Farm Bill—and its impact on the FCIP—as the process moves forward.

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