The U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill with a slim margin on Thursday.
The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 failed on the House floor in May, but was approved Thursday with a 213 to 211 vote. House Democrats unanimously opposed the legislation, joined by 20 Republicans. Disagreement over the bill was largely because of stricter work requirements included for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Democrat members of the House Agriculture Committee walked away from negotiations before the release of the bill over the work requirement provision, but supporters of the legislation believe it provides a path out of poverty.
Rep. Ron Estes (R-Kansas) said the passage of the bill was good news for Kansas and the country.
“The farm bill provides needed certainty for Kansas farmers and ranchers by protecting crop insurance and repealing burdensome Obama-era regulations like the Waters of the U.S. rule,” Estes said in a release. “I also support investments in rural broadband and common-sense reforms to SNAP that will help those in need while encouraging Americans to get back to work. Passage of this bill is good news for Kansans and our country.”
Investments in rural broadband and repealing WOTUS have been largely supported by Kansas farmers, but some have been concerned with the House bill’s handling of conservation programs.
Under the legislation, the Conservation Stewardship Program and Environmental Quality Incentives Program would be merged. Conservation groups and farmers have expressed concerns that folding CSP into EQIP will eliminate some of the key functions of the CSP program.
“In addition to the troubling cuts to working lands conservation, we are very concerned that this bill would roll back existing payment limits and create new loopholes for very large operations to exploit,” said Anna Johnson, senior policy advisor with the Center for Rural Affairs. “Sen. Chuck Grassley has made clear he plans to bring proposals for payment limitations to the Senate floor – we are very disappointed that the House of Representatives chose to take the opposite approach.”
The Senate farm bill advanced out of committee with a 20-1 vote June 13 and is expected to hit the Senate floor next week. However, more clashes may be in store when the House and Senate conference to find middle ground between the bills.
Increased work requirements for SNAP were a no go in the Senate Agriculture Committee, which could cause more tough negotiations when the bills come together.
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) congratulated the House on passage of their bill, and said he looks forward to working with the other chamber once the Senate bill is passed.
“I congratulate Chairman [Mike] Conaway on successfully navigating his Farm Bill through the House,” Roberts said in a statement. “I look forward to working with him and his colleagues in conference once the Senate passes our Farm Bill. Our farmers and ranchers need certainty and predictability. They are counting on us.”