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Partisan Warfare on House’s Version of 2018 Farm Bill Begins


House leaders wasted no time yesterday drawing partisan lines over the bill. Even before the text was released, House Speaker Paul Ryan was highlighting the farm bill in his weekly news conference. The bill will “get more Americans out of poverty, and … into the workforce,” he said.

But House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi issued a statement calling the bill “a betrayal of rural communities and working families across the nation.” The Democratic National Committee said the bill “takes access to healthy food away from families.”

And in a fresh sign of the historic partisan impasse on the Agriculture Committee itself: Ranking Democrat Collin Peterson released a statement that criticized even the bill’s commodity title, which he helped negotiate. He said the bill fails to “make needed improvements to the farm safety net.”

Peterson wants to increase reference prices in the Price Loss Coverage program, but Conaway says Peterson didn’t raise that as an issue until Democrats broke off negotiations over the bill last month.

The bill does include an escalator provision to raise PLC reference prices should commodity prices increase significantly. Soybeans could be affected if prices average $10 a bushel or more for an extended time.

Keep in mind: It’s an election year, with control of the House at stake, and both parties are playing to their bases. Nothing unusual about that. But this is not the way that farm bills ordinarily get done.

Conaway has eye on House conservatives

Conaway can ill afford to lose many GOP votes on the House floor, and he’s keeping the chairman of the conservative House Freedom Caucus, Mark Meadows, up to speed on the farm bill.

The two men met yesterday afternoon not long after the bill’s release. But Meadows wasn’t ready to publicly endorse the bill. He said he still needed to read the bill’s text.

Meanwhile, Texas Rep. Bill Flores, a former chairman of the larger Republican Study Committee, tells Agri-Pulse he expects there to be strong GOP support for the farm bill.

Don’t be surprised, if: Some of the bill’s SNAP incentives make it into law. They won’t get much attention now, but one significant provision would guarantee $1.2 billion in subsidies over 10 years for retailers who provide incentives to SNAP recipients to buy fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

Did you know? The farm bill’s number is H.R. 2. Low bill numbers are reserved for the majority party’s top legislative priorities. The tax bill enacted in December was H.R. 1.

Source: AgriMarketing

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