Some were shocked, some were dismayed (a few weren’t surprised at all) by the 2018 Farm Bill’s spectacular flameout in the House of Representatives when it came to a vote Friday.
Infighting over immigration divided the GOP vote just minutes after party leadership had projected a resounding victory on the House floor. Instead, 30 Republican Congressmen defected from the party position and joined all 193 Democrats in the House in voting against the bill, which failed 198-213.
Democrats opposed the bill out of the gate due to work requirements it placed on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). More conservative Republicans — known as the Freedom Caucus — shifted their votes when they were not promised a vote on more stringent immigration legislation, leaving the future of the Farm Bill in question.
Legislators will now go back to the drawing board to try and hammer out a compromise in time to meet the Sept. 30 deadline for approval.
North Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Steve Troxler was one of the few in the produce industry who was not surprised by Friday’s outcome.
“We had an inclination it might go that way,” he told SPW Saturday. “When you tangle all of the things together that a farm bill encompasses its awfully hard now to get that consensus we need to pass a farm bill. But when you throw something like immigration into the mix we thought it was going to pull some votes off and it did. So we now back to square one and we’ve got to start over.”
Other organizations stood in line to release statements about the Farm Bill failure:
SC Farm Bureau Federation
President Harry Ott
“I am very disappointed that the House did not pass the 2018 Farm Bill today. This legislation is an important safety net for farmers.
“As was evidenced during the flood in 2015, the crop insurance we have is not enough, and if we remove that safety net altogether and were to have another disaster, farmers would go out of business.
“In a time when farm income is decreasing and tariffs are looming, farmers do not need the uncertainty of losing the safety net that the Farm Bill provides.”
Lindsey Lusher Shute
The National Young Farmers Coalition
“Today’s vote should prove once and for all that Congress cannot pass a bill this important by dividing Republicans and Democrats; dividing what’s right for farmers and what’s right for families; pitting the largest farms against the smallest.
“We need a farm bill that works for, and includes, all of us. One that supports farmers and ranchers struggling through an economic downturn or growing amidst a drought, and one that can sustain farming as a viable livelihood for future generations…
“The House farm bill presented today didn’t heed that call. The House was right to defeat it, and let’s hope it’s back to the drawing board.”
Rebeca Romero Rainey
Independent Community Bankers of America
“Due to a fifth straight year of declining net farm income, which has fallen by more than 50 percent since 2013, the agricultural economy is challenging and fragile. A new farm bill to replace the bill expiring Sept. 30 is needed to provide financial stability to rural America and to support the efforts of community banks to continue financing our farmers, ranchers and rural communities.
“ICBA and community bankers call on Congress to continue their work on a new farm bill that includes a strong commodity title and robust funding for the crop insurance program without harmful changes that reduce premium assistance to producers, restrict participation or harm private-sector delivery.”
National Corn Growers Association
“Depressed commodity prices, the increasing threat of a trade war, and disruptions in the ethanol market are creating uncertainty across rural America. Our farmers need clarity on the prospects of a new farm bill signed into law this year.”
Given an increasingly polarized political climate, is it maybe time to start looking at breaking the Farm Bill into smaller, more easily manged parts?
“That time may be upon us,” Troxler says, “but the problem is, as we look at this, do we have the votes to get a farm bill done on its own merits? That is questionable I think.
“It’s becoming more and more difficult to get a Farm Bill passed because of all the moving parts in it. And when you try to build that perfect machine, all the cylinders have got to hit together. If one falls to the wayside you’ve got a problem. I think that’s what we saw in the vote Friday.”