Agriculture Policy Update Top Stories

2018 Farm Bill Update

Every five years, the U.S. congress takes on the vast legislative feat of passing another Farm Bill. Food policy advocates across the nation are anxiously following along with the reauthorization of the bill in 2018. Thus, FANPP student Serena Baldwin has set out to outline where the bill is in the reauthorization process, and identify major points of contention between the House and Senate’s proposed versions of the bill.

The Farm Bill is a comprehensive omnibus bill, which governs an array of agriculture, nutrition, conservation, and forestry policies and programs. With the 2014 Farm Bill nearing its expiration date of September 30, 2018, legislative proceedings are well underway to get the 2018 Farm Bill passed on time.

The Road to Reauthorization

The Farm Bill, officially referred to as H.R. 2: Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018,  was introduced by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Senator Mike Conaway on April 12, 2018.[1]

The first version of the bill failed in a house vote with 198 Republicans voting for the bill and 30 Republicans alongside all 183 Democrats voting against it.1

Slightly over a month later, the updated bill narrowly passed the House (213-211) with 10 fewer Republicans joining Democrats in their unanimous opposition.1

Just a week following this highly partisan vote, the Senate passed their version of the bill with broad support from senators on both sides of the aisle.1 Notably, this 86 to 11 vote was the highest vote total for a Senate farm bill in the bill’s 85-year history.[2]

In mid July the House voted unanimously to go to conference with the Senate on a new version of the bill. The Senate also moved to conference the bill on August 1, 2018.[3],[4]

 The Farm Bill Law Enterprise created this handy chart (see figure below) to track the bill as it moves through the process of becoming a law.

Differences Between the House and Senate Bill

SNAP Work Requirements

Changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are sure to be the largest point of contention in upcoming conference negotiations. The issue lies in that the bill proposed by House Republicans increases work requirements necessary to be eligible for SNAP.

Current SNAP work requirements:

Able bodied adults without dependents, between the ages of 18 and 49 must work at least 20 hours per week or participate in a job-training program in order to be eligible for benefits exceeding three months within a three year time period.5

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that 1.2 million fewer people per month would receive SNAP benefits per month if the House’s proposed changes are implemented.[5] In light of this, senators on both sides of the aisle decisively voted against an amendment to include the workforce requirements proposed by the House in their version of the Farm Bill.2 

Reduced Funding for Critical Programs

Proposed spending levels for programs within the Farm Bill also differ between the House and Senate. The House Republican’s proposal largely cuts funding for conservation, energy, and local and organic food promotion programs. By contrast, the Senate bill takes a budget neutral approach of retaining spending at current levels. 

*Chart information attributed to National Farmers Union Farm Bill Graphic

Farm Payment Limitations

Yet another disparity between the two proposed bills involves eligibility requirements for farmers to receive payments through farm and commodity programs. In essence, the House bill loosens eligibility requirements, allowing families and pass through entities to receive higher payments.2

Conversely, the Senate bill constrains eligibility requirements with the intention of reducing the quantity of individuals, specifically farm managers, qualifying for payments based only on farm-based management contributions.2

*Chart information attributed to National Farmers Union Farm Bill Graphic  

The Clock is Ticking

With the House on recess for most of August, September will be a crucial month for both chambers to work out their differences in conference negotiations.

To get the Farm Bill passed before the September 30th deadline, controversial and drastic policy changes should be put aside in favor of the bipartisan policies set out in the Senate Farm Bill.

Although Congress is working hard to ensure the Farm Bill gets passed, Senate Agriculture Committee member Chuck Grassley notes, as goes with many things in Washington, “the sky isn’t going to fall if the Farm Bill misses the deadline.”[7]

[1] https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/115/hr2

[2] https://agfax.com/2018/07/06/farm-bill-2018-next-up-resolving-5-key-issues-between-house-and-senate/

[3] http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/397706-house-votes-to-go-to-conference-on-farm-bill

[4] https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-agriculture/2018/08/01/senate-finally-votes-to-conference-farm-bill-303256

[5] https://www.factcheck.org/2018/05/facts-on-food-stamp-work-requirements/

[6] https://i0.wp.com/nfu.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/FarmBillGraphic.jpg

[7] https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-agriculture/2018/08/16/mexico-us-keep-moving-to-wrap-up-nafta-20-319106


Serena Baldwin is a first year FANPP student who gets way too excited every time Farm Bill season rolls around. She’s a strong advocate for food and nutrition policies that further public health and environmental goals. When she’s not thinking about food policy, she enjoys yoga and making sweet potato fries in her air fryer.

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The Friedman Sprout is a monthly student run newspaper that aims to serve the student population at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy, prospective students, and alumni. Our mission is to report on newsworthy information that affects the Friedman community including nutrition research, food policy, internship and volunteer opportunities, as well as school events. Our editorial slant is that of sustainability in food and nutrition.

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