After a month of political gamesmanship to force votes on controversial Immigration Reform measures, the U.S. House narrowly approved their version of the 2018 farm bill, 213 – 211 in a re-vote of the same measure that failed in May.
Officially known as the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018 (H.R. 2), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conway (R-TX) called the legislation critical to addressing the economic challenges facing the nation’s farmers, while also making significant investments in opportunities for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients.
“Today’s vote was about keeping faith with rural America and about the enduring promise of the dignity of a day’s work,” Rep. Conway said. “It was about providing certainty to farmers who have been struggling under the weight of a five-year recession and about providing our neighbors in need with more than just a hand out, but a hand up.”
Rep. Conway said he’s now looking forward to working with the U.S. Senate in conference committee and the president to deliver a farm bill on schedule.
American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) President, Zippy Duvall called passage of the House farm bill a big win for America’s farmers and acknowledged that Farm Bureau members clearly made their voices heard and that House members recognized the serious economic challenges facing U.S. farmers.
“As crafted by Chairman Conaway, this bill recognizes what is working well, but it also makes much-needed improvements in risk management and crop insurance programs at a time when farm-income levels have slumped to decade lows,” Duvall said. “This would not have been possible had it not been for Speaker Ryan making the farm bill a congressional priority, and for all the hard work invested in the process by Chairman Conaway and other members of the House Agriculture Committee.”
Duvall said the Farm Bureau will also focus attention on other areas important to farmers, including solution for the severe agriculture labor shortage, in light of the two immigration proposals meeting defeat in the House as well today.
Ag-friendly Immigration Reform legislation, used as a bargaining chip by the Freedom Caucus to earn their support of the 2018 House farm bill, was rejected, 193 – 231 shortly before the farm bill vote. The so-called Goodlatte immigration bill (HR 4760), which would have included a guest worker provision for agriculture, was one of two immigration reform proposals considered.
The American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) board of directors voted unanimously to support House passage of H.R. 4760, based on the strength of agricultural labor provisions included in the legislation just hours before the House vote.
Another immigration package (HR 6136), was viewed in some political sectors as either a compromise or a capitulation to President Donald Trump’s insistence on a border wall at an estimated cost of $23 billion and budget cuts to legal immigration programs.
The package reportedly would have given legal status to 800,000 immigrants who came into the country as children, but contained no provisions for providing much-needed reforms to the H2A Agricultural Seasonal Guestworker.
Rather than cast a final vote on HR 6136, House members opted instead to refer the package, along with the failed Goodlatte proposal to conference committee in a last-ditch effort to develop a compromise Immigration Reform package.