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Congress Returns to Farm Bill, Trade Uncertainty


Both the house and the senate return to Washington this week with more uncertainty about the timing of the farm bill than before members left for the Memorial Day recess.

Under a rule passed before the recess, the house has until June 22 for a revote on the farm bill that failed to gain a majority in May. That vote is supposed to come after the house votes on an immigration bill, but the Republican majority is still torn between its moderates, who want to protect the young undocumented students known as the Dreamers, and the hard liners, who want a vote on a bill to restrict legal immigration.

During the break Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said he would like to mark up the farm bill as soon as Wednesday, but a markup so soon after the senate returns seems unlikely.

Roberts had promised that he and Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., would announce a date for a markup on a bipartisan bill but there has been no announcement.

Lobbyists say the Senate Agriculture Committee markup may be held on June 11.

Roberts also said he would like to bring the farm bill to the senate floor as early as June 12, but there has been no official announcement about that either.

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Meanwhile, President Donald Trump announced that he would impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from the European Union, Canada and Mexico, and the EU, Canada and Mexico responded with plans to retaliate by imposing tariffs on U.S. products, including agriculture and food.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said this means the farm bill should focus on the impact of market fluctuations stemming from the trade conflict rather than the focus on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Progra changes that are the centerpiece of the Republican-only farm bill in the house.

“That the administration has decided to move forward with these wrongheaded tariffs, even after farmers have repeatedly warned that retaliation from our trading partners will cost American agriculture directly, shows that the administration either isn’t listening or doesn’t care,” Peterson said.

“That means it’s up to Congress,” he said.

Over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that amidst lower commodity prices farmers are now facing higher interest rates.

The Post also ran an article from its archive about farmers protesting in Washington. Farm Equipment.com also noted that interest rates on farm loans are rising.

Source: The Hagstrom Report, The Fence Post

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