GRAND RAPIDS – A political pundit is “optimistic” that the 2018 Farm Bill will get passed soon.
According to David Wasserman, house editor and political analyst for the Washington, D.C.-based The Cook Political Report, he’s “fairly optimistic that a Farm Bill will pass before the new Congress takes office because of the key players (involved).”
Wasserman, who spoke Tuesday morning during the Michigan Farm Bureau’s (MFB) annual AgriPac breakfast, said some of the pivotal players in the process of passing a new Farm Bill include Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas; and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
“They've been working together for a long time to get a Farm Bill done, and they would have to go through a whole re-education process for the 92 freshmen Representatives coming into the U.S. House if they restart the process (with) the new Congress,” Wasserman said during a keynote presentation. “I don't think they want to do that.”
Earlier this year, the U.S. House and Senate each passed their own very different version of the 2018 farm bill, which set up a Sept. 30 deadline when the current 2014 farm bill expired. Members of Congress missed that deadline, citing major differences between SNAP reform and associated work requirement, in addition to minor differences between crop insurance provisions and agricultural research.
Just this week, Stabenow, like Wasserman, said the Senate Agriculture Committee was “very close” to finishing a new farm bill, according to a report from Politico.
However, there’s concern over forestry policy among House Republicans and the White House, which has potential to “bring down the bill,” according to additional reports.
“What will happen with the Farm Bill? There are a couple of must-pass lame-duck pieces of legislation before the next Congress convenes,” Wasserman said, adding that some key questions remain for the Farm Bill, such as “what happens on forestry management, and who's eligible for family subsidies?”
“I suspect that you will see the conference report from those leaders pass both chambers of Congress (and) potentially in the House, with a few Democratic votes to offset the loss of some members of the Freedom Caucus who are opposed to a Farm Bill that doesn't include more stringent work requirements,” Wasserman said.
John Kran, National Legislative Counsel for the MFB, said the time for politicians to act is now.
“We need Congress to get the Farm Bill done now before the end of the year,” he said. “We only have a few days left on the legislative calendar to make that happen. A lot of time and energy have gone in to getting us to this point, and farmers need certainty now more than ever with the farm economy where it’s at.”