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House farm bill language has arrived

Tuesday, April 17, 2018   (0 Comments)
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By Aaron Stauffacher, associate director of government affairs

The widely anticipated farm bill language from the House Agriculture Committee was released last week. Congressional leaders want to enact the bill, titled the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, before the current version expires on Sept. 30.

Edge has been hard at work advocating on farm bill priorities on Capitol Hill and we are pleased to report that many of the provisions included in the draft are consistent with the messages we delivered during visits with members of Congress as recently as last month.

Here are key takeaways from the bill:

Margin Protection Program (MPP): Several revisions were made to this safety net for dairy farmers.

  • Renames MPP to Dairy Risk Management Program (DRMP).
  • Allows a dairy to participate in both DRMP and Livestock Gross Margin for Dairy (LGM-D), just not on the same production.
  • Eliminates the current 25 percent minimum coverage level and allows producers to elect levels in 5 percent increments from 5 percent to 90 percent of production history.
  • Continues to base production history on the 2011, 2012 and 2013 calendar years through 2023 and eliminates the annual adjustment of production history going forward.
  • Adds higher coverage levels of $8.50 and $9 for Tier 1 production (first 5 million pounds).
  • Provides new premiums for coverage levels under Tier 1.
  • Eliminates annual election of coverage levels and percentage of coverage and now requires farmers to make elections for the entire effective period of the program.

Trade: Retains funding for our trade programs and establishes the International Market Development Program, which consolidates former trade programs, Market Access Program (MAP), the Foreign Market Development (FMD) Program and others, under the authority of the newly created undersecretary for trade and foreign agriculture affairs.

Nutrition: Creates a retailer-funded incentives pilot project where retail food stores could provide financial incentives to SNAP customers who buy fluid milk. For the project, fluid milk is defined as cow milk without flavoring or sweeteners in liquid form.

A summary of the text can be found here.

Full legislative text can be found here.

The next step is April 18 when the House Agriculture Committee considers the language. It has been reported that the goal is to take the proposal to the House floor within the first few weeks of May. It is important to remember that there is still much work to be done and these provisions may not be what’s included in the final language. In February, several costly changes were made to revamp MPP, and while these recent changes seem uncontroversial, they still must make it through any potential funding debates.

There is a partisan fight brewing over revisions to the nutrition title dealing with SNAP program eligibility. Democrats are lining up in opposition to those changes so for this language to clear the House, Republicans will not be able to lose many votes. If the proposal does pass the House, it will have hurdles to clear in the Senate as the Republicans do not have the numbers to pass partisan language.

On the Senate side, Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow recently announced that they remain committed to producing a bipartisan bill that can pass the Senate and be enacted into law as quickly as possible. It is reported that they are weeks away from introducing their own language.

Once language is passed in both chambers, both proposals will need to be reconciled before the farm bill can go to the president’s desk for signature.

Stay tuned for more updates as the farm bill season rolls along.

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