The GOP farm bill draft protects crop insurance, improves the ARC and PLC programs–allowing reference prices to adjust to better market conditions and helps minimize ARC disparities between counties. It folds the Conservation Stewardship Program into the flagship voluntary conservation EQIP program and boosts rural broadband, rural development and anti-opioid efforts.
But the bill also includes highly controversial new food stamp work requirements, opposed by ag committee Democrats.
Ag Chair Micheal Conaway commented on the difficulty in shepherding a GOP bill against strong political headwinds in November, with Ag Democrats already lined up against his bill.
“Those folks are going to have to tell production America, rural America, and by the way those urban guys are really dependent on stuff that goes on in rural America. Their voters enjoy the safest, most abundant and affordable food and survivors’ supply of any developed nation in the world, so yes, anybody who eats ought to be in favor of good agricultural programs.”
But Democrats feel confident they can ‘wait out’ the ’18 farm bill process, in hopes of retaking the House in November and get more favorable terms on food stamps next year.
Top Ag Democrat Collin Peterson issued a public statement last month that his members are “unanimous in their opposition” to what Peterson called, “the extreme, partisan policies” of the majority, adding “this opposition will not change.”
Peterson is threatening changes to other sections of the bill, without GOP concessions on food stamps.
“A no vote, or a vote to support stripping out sugar or a vote to support decimating crop insurance, which I guess is what Mr. Peterson is saying they intend to do, makes no sense whatsoever in the grand scheme of things,” Conaway responded. “So, if that’s the line they want to go down, I can’t fix their problems.”
Conaway says he will start the committee mark-up process Wednesday and continue until House Ag reports it to the full House. The question is, can Conaway get a majority of 218, with few if any Democratic votes, and some conservative and moderate Republican votes in question.
Conaway, backed by President Trump and his order this week to tighten benefit work requirements, continues to press for entitlement reform. But, that effort suffered a political setback this week when key reformer, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced he’ll retire after this Congress.