WASHINGTON, DC - The "Four Principals" of the Farm Bill Conference Committee - House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) - released an official statement this morning announcing an "agreement in principle" on the 2018 Farm Bill.
Many of the finer details of the agreement are still under wraps, including compromises on contentious policy differences in the commodity, conservation, and nutrition titles in the two versions of the Farm Bill, while the House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders await the bill scoring, referring to the official Congressional Budget Office projected cost of the nearly trillion dollar farm bill over the next ten years, and the formal bill and report language. The principals have cautioned that depending on the outcome of the scores, they may have to return to the negotiating table if the bill exceeds spending limits.
"USA Rice is extremely appreciative to the House and Senate Agriculture Committee Leaders and the Farm Bill Conference Committee for their work towards passing a Farm Bill in 2018 when farmers and the agriculture industry are facing devastatingly low prices and market and trade disruptions," said Joe Mencer, Arkansas rice farmer and chair of USA Rice Farmers. "We're hopeful for a bill that continues to provide a strong farm safety net with no further restrictions to eligibility, continues critical conservation programs, and continues the use of commodity-based food aid."
The process of getting a 2018 Farm Bill passed began over two years ago. USA Rice members testified before Congress twice in 2017 to share the priorities and needs of the U.S. rice industry for the 2018 Farm Bill and members have been diligent in their advocacy efforts by attending roundtables, town halls, and through direct contact with their Members of Congress.
"Just 10 scheduled days remain on the Congressional calendar when both the House and Senate are in session, so time is of the essence to pass a Farm Bill before the end of this Congress," said Ben Mosely, USA Rice Vice President of Government Affairs. "It is important to note that our job is not quite done yet - we need our members to contact their Members of Congress and encourage them to vote yes on the conference report."
As far as process from now until the finish line, the four principals must agree on the final bill and report language along with its scoring, then Farm Bill Conference Committee members will sign the report before it's sent to each chamber of Congress for a straight up or down vote, with no amendments allowed, where only a simple majority is needed for passage. From there, if passage occurs in both chambers, the report will be sent to the president's desk to be signed into law.
"I want to thank our USA Rice members who have been advocating for a positive Farm Bill for the rice industry from the start," said Charley Mathews, Jr., California rice farmer and USA Rice Chairman. "I'm so impressed by the work and dedication of these individuals, organizations, and companies conveying our priorities and making their voices heard through multiple mediums - emails and phone calls to Members of Congress and meetings in states, districts, and in Washington. Now, let's get the Farm Bill across the finish line!"