Lawmakers unveil farm bill compromise

Rep. Jackie Speier has been a leading advocate for making Congress deal with its Me Too problem

SIPA USA PA Images Rep. Jackie Speier has been a leading advocate for making Congress deal with its Me Too problem

The most controversial element of the farm bill debate has been over differences between the House and Senate approaches to food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The legislation would continue generous subsidies to America's farmers and renew the food stamp program for five years.

While the federal government aims to pass a new farm bill every year, the latest version is unique: It contains a provision that would legalize hemp and regulate it under the US Department of Agriculture, much like any other crop.

Minnesota's lawmakers celebrated the 2018 Farm Bill's progress through Congress, noting pieces that could provide needed relief for farmers.

"It's good news for our farmers", McMorris Rodgers said.

Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer, who will replace Heitkamp next year after a contentious Senate race, said the legislation isn't flawless, but it "provides farmers, ranchers and rural Americans the certainty and stability they deserve".

"A lot of similarities between this farm bill and the one we've been operating under", Moran says.

"This bill includes very important forestry management reforms that are important to garner our communities against health risks like wildfires, so this is an effort that is a great step in the right direction", he stated.

North Dakota's congressional delegation, all three of whom were tapped as farm bill negotiators, welcomed the final product Tuesday.

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More than 40 million Americans, or about 12 percent of the US population, depend on the SNAP food stamps program to keep from going hungry. A previous version proposed by the House tightened work requirements for food stamp eligibility, a measure that became unlikely to pass after Democrats won control of the House in midterm elections.

Conaway championed the stricter work requirements, and fought to restrict the ability of states to issue waivers to exempt work-eligible people.

Johnson said he would have liked to see the bill make SNAP work requirements "more robust" for non-senior, able-bodied people without children, adding that he'd like to see "more accountability in the nutrition program". But he voiced disappointment over the failed changes to work requirements.

For instance, the farm bill permanently secures funding for a program that funds and promotes local farmers markets, as well as a program to research challenges facing organic farmers.

The bill also maintains current limits on farm subsidies, but includes a House provision to expand the definition of family to include first cousins, nieces and nephews, making them eligible for payments under the program.

In an interview with VTDigger, Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., said passing the bill gives stability to farmers in Vermont and across the country for the next five years.

"I mean we even have pictures where we actually took the same 1947 International Harvester cultivators and cultivated the crop", said Ben Pasley of Mount Folley Farms.

"To put it bluntly, the farm economy stinks", said Lynn Chrisp, president of the National Corn Growers Association.

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