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Agriculture is key to our state's economy, culture, and history. It is our leading industry with roughly $16 billion contributed to the Natural State economy each year. With rice, soybeans, cotton, corn, cattle, and wheat, we at Arkansas Public Media pledge to report on issues that impact not just this industry, but this leading way of life in our state.

Senate Passes Farm Bill; Food Stamp Fight Still Ahead

Ann Kenda
The U.S. Senate has passed its version of the Farm Bill, but the issue of bolstered work requirements for food stamp recipients remains far from settled.

The U.S. Senate easily passed its version of the 2018 Farm Bill on Thursday with a vote of 86 to 11.  The stage is now set for a negotiation with the House over new work requirements for food stamp recipients.  

The House version of the Farm Bill, passed in April, would require able-bodied individuals who aren’t caring for children under the age of six to work at least 20 hours a week to be eligible for food stamps.  People can also enroll in school or job training, or volunteer in their community, to meet the requirement.

The Senate version passed on June 28 leaves the current food stamp program mostly intact, and does not impose any new work requirements on recipients. 

President Trump has said that he favors a Farm Bill that includes the work requirements.

Key lawmakers will now have to work to come up with a Farm Bill version that both chambers would be willing to pass, presumably with the blessing of the President.

While most of the attention has centered on work requirements other aspects of the mammoth legislation include safety net programs for farmers, more tracking and verification of agricultural products that claim to be organic, and the legalization of hemp farming by removing hemp from a federal list of controlled substances.  

U.S. Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) voted with the majority to pass the Farm Bill but also expressed some concerns in a written statement issued shortly after the passage.

“We are one step closer to providing certainty and predictability to Arkansas's farmers and ranchers who are experiencing the most fragile farm economy since the 1980s farm crisis. I was pleased to see the process move forward. However, I have serious concerns about provisions that were included at the last minute that have the potential to negatively impact farmers in Arkansas and across the country,” he wrote.

Boozman added that he’s committed to working with colleagues to address concerns so that the final bill benefits all farmers and ranchers.

The current Farm Bill expires on Sept. 30. The policies of the previous Farm Bill can stay in effect indefinitely until a new bill is passed.

This story is produced by Arkansas Public Media. What's that? APM is a nonprofit journalism project for all of Arkansas and a collaboration among public media in the state. We're funded in part through a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with the support of partner stations KUAR, KUAF, KASU and KTXK. And, we hope, from you! You can learn more and support Arkansas Public Media's reporting at Arkansas Public Media is Natural State news with context.

Ann Kenda joined Arkansas Public Media in January 2017 from Sudbury, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Syracuse University and previously worked in public radio, commercial radio and newspaper in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. She focuses on health, justice, education and energy as part of the Arkansas Public Media team. Her stories can be found on the airwaves, and social media.
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