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Russell Nemetz Senate Farm Bill Passes Easily
by Russell Nemetz, click here for bio

Program: Land & Livestock Report
Date: July 02, 2018

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The Senate passed a new farm bill Thursday with a massive bipartisan vote of 86 to 11, signaling that the Senate Agriculture Committee will be in a strong position in negotiations with the House Agriculture Committee in conference.

There are no major changes to the farm programs in the bill. The basis of the commodity programs changes little in the Senate and House versions of the bill. Neither bill raises reference prices that are the basis for the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) and Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program.

The major issues in conference are expected to be about differences between the House and the Senate on the changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and about how the bills address restrictions on eligibility for commodity subsidies.

The vote on final passage took place after a roll call vote on an amendment offered by Sens. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Cory Booker, D-N.J., to place curbs on the checkoff research and promotion programs. The vote on that amendment was 38 to 57, and it failed.

Just before final passage, the Senate also approved an amendment offered by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., to allow partial haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program land. Farmers would be able to hay or graze up to one-third of their land in certain circumstances for a 25% decline in rental payments.

In other areas of CRP, the Senate bill increases the acreage by 1 million acres for a total of 25 million but lowers the average rental rate to 88% of the county rental average. Negotiations will have to find a sweet spot with the House, which increases CRP acreage to 29 million acres but also lowers the rental rate for new enrollment to 80% of the average rental rate.

The Senate bill also keeps the Conservation Stewardship Program intact, while the House bill eliminates new enrollment but adds more funding to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

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