The Senate rolled out its version of the 2018 Farm Bill Friday. As expected, the language of the bill would put the legislation on a path for evolutionary changes, not revolutionary.
The key to Friday’s announcement was that it was a joint effort between Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), which sets a bipartisan tone for the bill as it moves through the committee, in stark contrast to the partisan fight that has stalled a farm bill on the other side of the dome.
The Senate’s language doesn’t tie work requirements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), a piece that proved to be a snag in the House’s version of the bill. It’s that language that also forced House Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) to voice his extreme opposition of the House’s bill.
Marc Short, the legislative affairs assistant to the president, told U.S. Farm Report that the administration wants to pass a Farm Bill for farmers in 2018.
“At the end of the day, will the White House support a Farm Bill that does not include work requirements for SNAP?” asked U.S. Farm Report.
“We don't want to talk about the hypotheticals that we will or won't sign,” said Short. “The reality is we expect the House to pass a farm bill with work requirements this summer. We expect the Senate bill to pass this summer. The president's very eager to sign a farm bill. He wants to deliver on that for farmers across America.”
Short said he understand the Senate needs to pass a bill that will clinch the required 60 votes needed, instead of just a majority. However, he said the administration is supportive of the work requirements being tied to SNAP, with the president voicing his support of the move.
Short said the president believes strongly that if Americans are getting welfare benefits, and are able to work, then those individuals should be working.
“One of the things that the president has advocated all along is able-bodied Americans should be working, particularly when you see the economy as it is today with 3.1 percent unemployment,” said Short.
Looking at the crop insurance portion for the bill, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Tex.) said despite talks of the administration targeting crop insurance, the president personally asked him to make crop insurance even better for farmers.
Both Conaway and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman attended a meeting at the White House in May, where the president discussed Farm Bill specifics.
“I'm in the meeting with the president there and unprovoked he says 'Conaway you're going to be crop insurance better?' said Conaway. “I said, 'Mr. President we really don't mess with it.' He said, ‘No, I want it great. I want crop insurance to be better. Pat, you're going to make it better, right?' So, the president aggressively went at Pat and I to protect crop insurance make it better, make it great.”
Before the meeting was held, speculations floated around that the White House would veto a Farm Bill that did not include stricter work requirements for SNAP. However, Conaway said the President didn’t say he would veto the bill.