Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley feigned shock on Thursday that House and Senate negotiators did not want his farm subsidy reform in the final version of the five-year farm bill. “Surprise, surprise, surprise,” he said scornfully.
With congressional leaders calling the shots on forestry language, and with an incendiary Republican proposal for strict SNAP work requirements apparently off the table, negotiators reached a tentative agreement Wednesday on a farm bill that is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
Farm bill negotiators spoke smilingly of comity and compromise while budging not an inch on major issues such as SNAP work requirements on Wednesday during their first, and possibly last, public meeting.
In a letter to the “big four” farm bill negotiators, 107 House Democrats called for stronger conservation programs in the final version of the bill and said they opposed provisions that would weaken pesticide regulation, interfere with state regulation of agricultural trade, or fundamentally alter the food stamp program.
If farm bill negotiators allow “anti-environment policy riders” into the bill’s final version, they can expect protracted debate and possible defeat of the panoramic legislation, said 38 Democratic senators on Thursday.
Almost as soon as Congress reconvenes after the Labor Day weekend, the nearly six dozen farm bill negotiators will hold their first public meeting, announced the leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture committees.
With the support of the Trump administration, the Republican-controlled House wrote welfare reform into the farm bill. Now, GOP leaders say they will call a vote as early as Tuesday in the House for a face-to-face confrontation with the Senate over broader and more rigorous work requirements affecting an estimated 7 million food stamp recipients.
In a survey of over 800 farmers and ranchers across five states, the Center for Rural Affairs found overwhelming support for the farm bill's Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP). The Nebraska-based organization, which advocates for environmental stewardship and rural communities, concluded that the CSP should continue to exist and be funded as a standalone farm-bill initiative.
The Republican-sponsored House farm bill unveiled on Thursday would expand the land-idling Conservation Reserve by one-fifth and eliminate the green-payment Conservation Stewardship Program.
The USDA spends several billion dollars a year on voluntary land stewardship programs. With the 2018 farm bill on the horizon, two members of the House Agriculture Committee have unveiled legislation that would require the USDA to evaluate and report on the impact of the soil and water projects it bankrolls.