Senate farm bill advances out of committee

Read some of the key components of the bill on which the majority leader plans floor debate before July 4.

By Deana Stroisch

The U.S. Senate Ag Committee overwhelmingly endorsed its version of the 2018 farm bill Wednesday.

The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 was approved by a vote of 20-1. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, voted against. The bill now heads to the Senate floor.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who spoke in support of the legislation during the meeting, announced plans for a floor debate by July 4. The House, meanwhile, faces a June 22 deadline to reconsider its version of the farm bill.

“Illinois Farm Bureau applauds the bipartisan work of the U.S. Senate Ag Committee in advancing its farm bill,” said IFB President Richard Guebert Jr. “At this time of economic uncertainty with farm income, our members need the risk-management programs included in the farm bill now more than ever. We urge the full Senate to follow the committee’s lead and approve the legislation as soon as possible.”

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Related: Review of Senate farm bill reveals much different approach from House version. Read more here.

The Senate version of the bill:

- Continues to give farmers a choice between Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage programs.

- Maintains crop insurance.

- Allows ARC-county payments to be based on a farm’s physical location.

- Replaces the Margin Protection Program with “Dairy Risk Coverage.”

- Increases the number of Conservation Reserve Program acres to 25 million. An amendment to further increase the acreage was withdrawn during committee. The House version of the bill increases acreage to 29 million acres.

- Lowers the adjusted gross income eligibility requirement from $900,000 to $700,000.

- Doesn’t include work/training requirements to receive nutrition assistance as the House version proposes.

- Reauthorizes trade programs such as the Market Access Program.

- Includes McConnell’s Hemp Farming Act, which would legalize the cultivation of industrial hemp.

Grassley expressed disappointment the bill didn’t include reforms to farm program eligibility.

“I intend to offer an amendment on the Senate floor to include common sense payment limits in the 2018 farm bill,” he said. “A similar amendment passed the Senate in the last farm bill and should pass again.”

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