House approves farm bill draft

By Jessica Domel

After failing to pass two pieces of immigration legislation Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its legislation authorizing a 2018 Farm Bill in a 213 to 211 vote.

There were four non-votes.

“Today’s passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives is a positive step in ensuring Texas farmers and ranchers are able to continue providing the food and fiber our nation relies on,” Texas Farm Bureau President Russell Boening said.

The farm bill, Boening noted, provides stability, risk management tools and the certainty that farmers, ranchers and consumers need.

“(The) vote was about keeping faith with the men and women of rural America and about the enduring promise of the dignity of a day’s work. It was about providing certainty to farmers and ranchers who have been struggling under the weight of a five-year recession and about providing our neighbors in need with more than just a hand out, but a hand up,” Congressman Mike Conaway, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture, said. “I’m proud of what this body has accomplished and now look forward to working with the Senate and the president to deliver a farm bill on time to the American people.”

The House failed in a 198 to 213 vote on May 18 to approve the farm bill legislation, largely due to many no votes from members of the Freedom Caucus who wanted to force a vote on immigration legislation.

Following Thursday’s vote, Sen. Pat Roberts, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, congratulated Conaway on the bill’s passage.

“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,” Roberts said.

The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) called the vote a big win for America’s farmers and ranchers, many of whom were busy earlier this week contacting their lawmakers urging support for the bill.

“Our grassroots Farm Bureau members clearly made their voices heard. By approving the 2018 Farm Bill today, members of the House recognized the serious economic challenges facing farmers and ranchers across the country,” AFBF President Zippy Duvall said. “As crafted by Chairman Conaway, this bill recognizes what is working well, but it also makes much-needed improvements in risk management and crop insurance programs at a time when farm-income levels have slumped to decade lows.”

Duvall said passage would not have been possible had it not been for House Speaker Paul Ryan making the farm bill a priority.

“We look forward to continuing our work with Senate Agriculture Committee leaders Roberts and (Ranking Member Debbie) Stabenow as they move forward,” Duvall said. “The Senate bill also addresses the challenges our farmers and ranchers are facing today. We will also continue to focus our attention on other areas important to farmers, such as finding a solution for the very serious ag labor shortage, increasing market opportunities through trade and cutting the burdens of regulations that have piled up during previous administrations.”

The text of the House farm bill, along with a summary, can be found here.

The Senate is expected to vote on its agriculture committee’s version of the farm bill next week.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he expects the bill to pass before the Fourth of July holiday.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30.

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