House Republican holdouts seeking a vote on unrelated Immigration Reform measure, and Democrats opposed to “cruel reforms” to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the proposed House version of the 2018 Farm Bill were successful in defeating HR-2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act.
According to Michigan Farm Bureau (MFB) National Legislative Counsel, John Kran only 198 Republican House members supported passage, with 30 opposed and another 7 not voting. Democratic House members were unanimous in their opposition, with 183 opposing and another 10 not voting.
Calling the news disappointing, MFB President Carl Bednarski, a Tuscola County farmer, said the organization had urged Michigan’s Congressional delegation to approve the legislation to addresses many long-standing issues important to farmers, especially in the current farm economy.
“Unfortunately, a majority of the House of Representatives obviously chose to ignore the economic hardships in agriculture and focus instead, on political posturing and party politics in an election year,” Bednarski said. “Net farm income has fallen by 52 percent in the past four years, the steepest decline we’ve experienced since the Great Depression. Michigan farmers and ultimately consumers, expect and deserve better as we enter into the fifth year of an on-going agricultural recession.”
The legislation called for critical improvements to the dairy program and commodity titles, access to federal crop insurance and research provisions for Michigan’s specialty crop sector research, while streamlining conservation programs, and enhancing rural broadband efforts – all of which are priorities for rural Michigan.
Bednarski said a core purpose of every farm bill has been to assist farmers in weathering factors beyond their control, including natural disasters, disease, and high and rising foreign subsidies, tariffs, and non-tariff trade barriers, while also providing nutritional assistance to those in need.
“The Agriculture and Nutrition Act would have benefited our entire U.S. economy,” Bednarski said. “The Farm Bill has been supported for decades by a coalition of rural and urban interests including agriculture, conservation, energy, nutrition, rural development and others.”
Kran says the future of the current Farm Bill proposal is unclear at this time, adding that it might be debated and reconsidered at some point, or it might be back to drawing board to address the contentious SNAP eligibility reform provisions and additional work requirements.
While the debate will continue in the U.S. House, Kran says the U.S. Senate also needs to complete its version of the 2018 Farm Bill package. Additional time will be required in conference committee once the House and Senate approve their respective 2018 farm bill proposal.
“It’s crucial for Michigan agriculture and consumers to have peace of mind, knowing that the 2018 Farm Bill is completed on time, before September 30,” Kran said. “Farm Bureau will continue working with congress on a bipartisan bill that can be signed into law to ensure farmers nationwide are able to continue providing safe, affordable and abundant food supply to U.S. consumers.”