When we reconsider the Farm Bill let’s protect farmers and move forward

May 18, 2018

After a tense debate in recent weeks, the Farm Bill (H.R. 2) failed to pass the House 198-213 today.

Members of the Freedom Caucus pushed for immigration legislation to be considered before the Farm Bill. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan moved after the vote that the bill be reconsidered at some point in the future. His motion passed by voice vote and the future date of reconsideration is unknown.

The final tally included 183 “no” votes from Democrats with no member from that side of the aisle voting “yes.” Thirty Republicans also voted against the final version.

Hopefully, before Republican leadership start round two of the debate they will consider some of the reforms to both the food and farm portions of the bill. There are some simple reforms that can help farmers, struggling families, and taxpayers.  

From the bill’s initial release, the outcry against SNAP reform has alienated House Democrats. The House Republican Study Committee has also been skeptical about the current version of the bill and released a list of concerns. The final push against the bill came from the House Freedom Caucus, which opposed the bill until the Goodlatte immigration bill had been considered.

During this pause there is an opportunity to make some changes. Policymakers should create a bill that encourages self-reliance and work while offering the insurance needed by farmers who face uncertainty from many quarters. 

This version would have perpetuated unfair policies which favor large operations over small family farms, first generation operations, and young and minority farmers.

Reforms that would promote self-reliance include separating the nutrition and farm program, placing reasonable limits on crop insurance payouts and reducing premium subsidies as proposed by the Congressional Budget Office earlier this year, capping payouts on the title I commodity programs, ending double dipping, continuing to include work requirements for food stamps, and creating conservation programs that reward results and not just actions. Each of these would make the Farm Bill better, protect farmers, and be more fiscally responsible.

As we wrote earlier today, House and Senate leaders should reform both sides of the bill to generate broad support. Hopefully, by September our nation will have a reauthorized and reformed Farm Bill and Food Bill promoting self-reliance and prosperity for farmers and consumers.