Ag Chairman Mike Conaway Gets His Farm Bill Passed
WASHINGTON, D.C. — It’s a sense of accomplishment, said Congressman Mike Conaway, upon final passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill is the hallmark of Conaway’s four-year stint as Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture. He steps down as chairman after this session because Democrats gained control of the U.S. House in the November midterms.
The 2018 Farm Bill, officially named H.R.2 - Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, passed the House earlier this year and went to the Senate where the upper body debated provisions in the House language that increased work requirements for approximately 40 million Americans currently on food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Earlier this year in San Angelo, Conaway explained the original bill’s proposals as “good governance.”
Conaway’s proposed bill would slash food stamps by $20 billion over the next 10 years. Critics expect more than 1.5 million to 2 million current recipients of SNAP will be pushed off the program.
Conaway defended his committee’s proposals far and wide. He noted that the “broad-based categorical eligibility” of SNAP allows a person making $60,000 to $80,000 per year to obtain food stamps. “Defend that,” Conaway challenged anyone who would listen. “We’ve got folks who qualify for SNAP in two different states. We can’t catch them right now,” he said. “Defend that.”
In the Senate, despite being controlled by the Republicans, 60 percent of the senators were needed to vote for Conaway’s version of the bill, keeping Conaway’s food stamp reform in tact. Republicans hold a slim 51-vote majority and getting Democrat Senators to agree with Conaway’s version of “good governance” was impossible.
Losing control of the House in November removed all of Conaway’s leverage. Although 80 percent of the $867 billion bill to be spent over 10 years is for SNAP, the rest of the money was earmarked for farm and ranch programs, like ag subsidies.
President Trump’s trade battles and tariffs were unsettling world agriculture markets and American farmers need stability from their government. Setting the agenda of how the federal government will subsidize and regulate the industry over the next decade had urgency for good agribusiness operations. The previous farm bill expired Oct. 1.
Conaway did get a few items he advocated into the final bill now sent to President Trump’s desk. Among them:
- It sets forth better procedures that improve how states administer the program in an effort to cut down on inaccurate payments.
- It slightly increases funding for SNAP work-training programs, a hallmark of Conaway’s nixed work requirement. The work-training programs were intended to offer continued eligibility to unemployed citizens as long as the intended SNAP recipient was enrolled in a state work-ready program. Conaway got the expenditure of the work-programs without the cut.
- And the bill mandated that states provide more support for work-training programs.
For farmers, the bill provides similar commodity subsidies and federal crop insurance programs as were in the previous law. Commodity payments will increase by about $1 billion over the next 10 years, though. Conaway fought for the increase, Politico reported.
The 2018 Farm Bill is “better policy that strengthens the farm safety net and our rural communities, improves conservation initiatives, expands exports, and enhances the integrity of our nutrition programs,” Conaway said in a statement.
Among the specific provision that help American farmers, the bill is:
- Cutting red tape and reforming burdensome regulations for farm production;
- Providing a $45 million annual increase to food banks, of which nearly half annually is devoted to the creation and maintenance of Farm-to-Food Bank programs, commonly known as ag surplus programs;
- Investing in quality rural broadband;
- Establishing a scholarship program to assist the next generation of farmers and ranchers;
- Promoting the conservation of America’s working lands;
- Strengthening the farm safety net by reauthorizing Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss; Coverage options for the next five years;
WATCH: Congressman Mike Conaway on the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill:
“I’ve maintained from the beginning that this farm bill ought to be about standing up for America’s farm and ranch families who are going through some very hard times. And we have kept faith with that commitment. Farm country and rural America will be better off under this farm bill than they were before. I want to thank our leadership in the House, Sec. Perdue and President Trump. Because of our work this year, rural America and farm and ranch country know we have their backs,” said Conaway.
Wednesday, the Farm Bill compromise passed the House by a vote of 369-47. It now heads to President Trump’s desk where he is expected to sign it into law.
Congressman Mike Conaway represents Congressional District 11, from Granbury to San Angelo to Midland in Texas.