The Senate passed their version of the farm bill on Thursday, with a 86-11 vote.
The farm bill is monumental legislation that sets the eating and farming policy in the United States — including what Americans grow, what Americans know about their dinner and how much the government spends in the process — for about five years.
Sen. James Lankford actually voted against the measure, saying it doesn’t really improve federal agriculture policy.
“I strongly support the important work of our farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma. Our families in Oklahoma, around the country, and the world have good, healthy food to eat and clothes to wear because of their hard work and relentless toil. The farm bill has a nice-sounding name—the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018—but the bill doesn’t make real improvements to our federal agriculture policy. To protect the long-term health and efficiency of agriculture policy, and the families who need nutritional assistance, real reforms are needed, which is why I offered several amendments to the bill. My hope is that a conference committee between the House and the Senate will improve this bill by enacting real reforms to its provisions on SNAP, conservation programs, and energy,” Lankford said.
“The greatest challenge facing our Oklahoma agriculture community is the uncertainty around our international trade agreements and rapid fluctuations in commodity prices. Programs in the farm bill cannot make up for the harm that can be inflicted by trade actions that jeopardize our global markets. We must get serious about concluding ongoing trade negotiations and pursue new deals in emerging markets as soon as possible for Oklahoma’s farmers and ranchers.”
All eyes will now turn to efforts between the House and Senate to resolve major issues between their respective bills by September 30, the deadline for the expiration of the current law, which was enacted in 2014.
At the top of the list is the House Republican overhaul of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP — the primary reason none of the chamber’s Democrats supported the traditionally bipartisan effort. The program itself serves more than 40 million people annually and accounts for almost 80 percent of the bill’s $430 billion cost over five years.
The House-passed bill would require able-bodied adults without children under the age of six to work a minimum of 20 hours per week in order to maintain benefits, and also tighten overall eligibility requirements while moving money from the program to other work-related programs.
The Senate largely steered clear of major changes to the program — despite a try by GOP Sens. Mike Lee and Ted Cruz to tack on an amendment to address SNAP — and kept the bill’s bipartisan imprimatur as a result
The two sides will now need to reconcile those differences.
For its part, the White House is supportive of the House effort. Department of Agriculture administrator Sonny Purdue called for the measure in an outline he sent to Congress in January that listed Trump administration priorities for the legislation.
The Trump administration’s statement of administration policy urged the Senate to adopt an approach on food stamps language similar to the House version. It did not, however, include a veto threat on to the Senate legislation.
Staff in both chambers have already started to hash out the differences in the two versions in an effort reach a resolution and get the bills to the president’s desk quickly, aides said.