Farm bill sails through House with momentum for Trump's signature

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., updated the joint meeting of American Crystal Sugar and the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association about the 2018 Farm Bill in Fargo on Thursday, Dec. 6. Jenny Schlecht / Forum News Service
Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., updated the joint meeting of American Crystal Sugar and the Red River Valley Sugarbeet Growers Association about the 2018 Farm Bill in Fargo on Thursday, Dec. 6. Jenny Schlecht / Forum News Service Jenny Schlecht / Forum News Service

WASHINGTON — Farm groups and officials and Upper Midwest members of Congress were quick to cheer the passage of a farm bill by the U.S. House on Wednesday, Dec. 12.

The bill on Tuesday passed the U.S. Senate on a 87-13 vote, with a 369-47 vote the next day in the House. The bill now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.

Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., was one of the main architects of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 as he served as the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee. In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Peterson pointed out improvements for dairy farmers and permanent funding for Local Food & Farmers Market Promotion Program, value-added producer grants, the BFRDP program, organic research and the Section 2501 Outreach program.

“As I said in my floor speech, rural America is facing so many challenges and this bill goes a long way toward providing needed certainty to farmers and ranchers,” Peterson said. “I encourage President Trump to sign the farm bill into law quickly.”

The American Dairy Coalition called Peterson, along with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Rep. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, “agriculture-oriented leaders.” Peterson chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, on which Stabenow is the ranking member, and Conaway chairs the House committee.

“The American Dairy Coalition appreciates the bipartisan effort that resulted in the advancement of the Farm Bill. The passing of the Farm Bill is a great step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done to help pull our nation’s dairy farmers facing financial crisis as a result of low milk prices and the impacts of retaliatory tariffs on dairy product exported to some of our major dairy trading partners,” the group said in a statement.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., who served on the farm bill conference committee and is the chair of the Senate Ag Appropriations Committee, cheered the fact that a farm bill passed without having to extend the previous bill.

“This is the first time since 1990 that Congress has passed the farm bill before the end of the calendar year. We did it with broad, bipartisan support and by building on the strengths of both the Senate and House versions,” Hoeven said in a statement.

Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who also served on the farm bill conference committee, credited constituent comments for getting policy initiatives into the bill.

"The House and Senate’s quick action this week to pass the Conference report ensures farmers, ranchers and rural Americans the certainty and stability they deserve before the end of the year," he said in a statement.

U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement that the bill provides a “strong safety net for farmers and ranchers” and he will encourage the president to sign it.

“Farm Bill will help producers make decisions about the future, while also investing in important agricultural research and supporting trade programs to bolster exports,” he said.

Perdue wasn’t without complaints about how the bill handled several hot-button issues, though.

“While I feel there were missed opportunities in forest management and in improving work requirements for certain (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) recipients, this bill does include several helpful provisions and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities.”

Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the bill’s passage is “welcome news to America’s farmers and ranchers and the consumers who depend on them for food, fiber and energy crops.”

“Passage means we are one signature away from renewal of risk management tools, foreign market development and environmental stewardship programs that farmers and ranchers need to survive a prolonged and painful downturn in farm income and be sustainable,” Duvall said.

Not everyone, of course, was on board with the bill. Josh Sewell, senior policy analyst for Taxpayers for Common Sense, called the bill “a step backward on efforts to ensure that farm safety net programs are focused on actual farmers.”

“It increases the complexity of the agricultural safety net to the detriment of taxpayers, consumers, and new and beginning farmers,” Sewell said in a statement.

Sewell also criticized the process used to get the bill passed and the things he did not cover.

“It does absolutely nothing to provide Congressional guidance to resolving the Trump administration’s trade war that threatens generational harm in the agricultural economy,” he said.