A Bill Past Due: Unfinished 2018 Farm Bill Leaves Uncertainty

Nov 4, 2018

With the 2018 Farm Bill more than a month late, analysts are watching to see whether the bill will pass this year or go into 2019.

“States like Arkansas, and many others, that are highly dependent on agriculture have a big stake in the outcome,” said Ferd Hoefner, a senior strategic advisor and longtime Farm Bill expert with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.

The mammoth legislation that covers a number of agricultural and rural programs did not pass by the September 30th deadline, leaving major programs such as crop insurance and food stamps to continue under the policies of the 2014 Farm Bill.  Other programs are in limbo.

Most of the conflict between the House and Senate versions of the bill involves farm subsidies, conservation and work requirements for food stamp recipients.

While some work requirements for food stamp recipients already exist, the House narrowly passed a Farm Bill version in June that would bolster those requirements and require most able-bodied recipients to spend 20 hours a week working, training for a job or volunteering.  The Senate version does not change the current work requirements.

“The reason that people aren’t working isn’t that they don’t want to.  It’s that they have these structural barriers – mental health, transit issues, child care issues – that prevent them from working steadily,” said Bruno Showers, a senior policy analyst with the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families.

President Trump, speaking with Agri-Pulse Communications shortly before a Future Farmers of America convention in Indianapolis in late October, said he was hoping to get the work requirements into the Farm Bill but stopped short of saying that he would veto the legislation if it does not include them.

“I’d love to get the work requirements if we could. Farmers want it, I want it, it’s the right thing to do,” Trump said.

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