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Farm Bill Interest Grows Again

As you may recall, in mid-June, the House passed an exceptionally lean “farm only” version of the Farm Bill (HR 2462) reauthorization that did not include any provision for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) – also known as food stamps.  The House measure also made cuts to most of the conservation provisions but retained the $20 million for water and wastewater technical assistance and circuit rider programs.  HR 2462 provided a total of $196 billion over the next ten years for farm-related efforts.

Conversely, the Senate retained SNAP language which accounted for approximately 80 percent of the total $955 billion authorization but reduced SNAP funding by about $4 billion.  The Senate bill (S 964) also funded $60 million in water and wastewater grants and $60 million in loans “to alleviate health risks” and $25 million in grants for nonprofit organizations to provide technical assistance, help prepare financial assistance applications, and to improve water/wastewater system operation and maintenance.  The Senate version also establishes a Regional Conservation Partnership Program to incentivize partnerships between water utilities and agriculture producers to implement conservation practices with a particular emphasis on nutrient management-related activities.

The disparity in SNAP funding created a barrier to consideration of a House-Senate conference on the two bills.  This week, however, House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) has announced a plan for a separate SNAP bill that is likely to be introduced and moved to the House Floor for a vote next week.  If successful, this action would pave the way for the House and Senate to come to conference on the Farm Bill without having to battle over SNAP.  Both chambers and both sides of the aisle are interested in seeing a new Farm Bill this year – but as with so many Congressional efforts – the devil is in the details.