The Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, more commonly referred to as the Farm Bill, was passed by the United States House of Representatives June 21. The farm bill is typically renewed every four or five years and the United States is currently operating under the 2014 statute which expires Sept. 30 of this year.
Robert McKnight Jr., who serves as president of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, released a statement following the bill’s passage in the house.
“In Texas, cattle contribute more than $10.5 billion to the economy each year, and the farm bill is an important tool to ensure cattle producers in Texas and across the nation can continue their tireless work to provide the beef demanded by American consumers,” McKnight is quoted in the statement.
“The House version of the Farm Bill contains a number of specific provisions to safeguard cattle raisers,” the statement continued. “These include funding for a vaccine bank in the event of a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak, research, foreign market development and conservation programs such as the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) that are utilized by cattle producers.”
The bill does provide $450 million to enhance the USDA’s ability to identify, diagnose and respond to a potential animal disease outbreak. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is the governmental department consisting of 29 agencies and oversees the farm industry as well as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) otherwise known as food stamps.
Texas Farm Bureau also praised the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.
“Today’s passage of the 2018 Farm Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives is a positive step in ensuring Texas farmers and ranchers are able to continue providing the food and fiber our nation relies on,” stated TFB President Russell Boening. “Every day, farmers and ranchers face uncertain weather conditions, commodity markets and global turmoil. The farm bill provides the stability, risk management tools and certainty that agriculture and American consumers need.”
Malcolm Williams, president of the Smith County Farm Bureau also commented on the initial passage of the 2018 Farm Bill.
“We feel good about the strides made in the farm bill,” Williams stated. “We look at it as a food bill.”
The goal the Farm Bureau hopes the bill achieves, as communicated by Williams, is to “ensure safe and economical food for everyone.”
Williams also reminds the public that 80 percent of what is called the Farm Bill is geared towards SNAP.
In May, the latest month for which figures were available, Smith County totaled 11,747 cases, or 27,238 recipients of SNAP benefits to the tune of $2,991,422 overall. Cherokee County had 3,417 cases with benefits totaling $869,591 for 8,200 recipients.
The House version of the bill added stricter work requirements for SNAP recipients, but also allowed SNAP applicant to maintain up to $2,000 in savings that would not be counted toward the applicant’s assets when determining eligibility.
The Democrats are opposed to the new work requirements and to cuts to SNAP, resulting in a Senate passed Farm Bill differing from the House version. The two versions will now have to be reconciled before the bill can be sent to the president to be signed into law.
It is unclear whether such a reconciliation and passage of the bill will take place before, or even after, mid-term elections. The uncertainty may leave many in agricultural fields anxious, especially considering possible tariffs on farm goods from countries such as Canada, Mexico and China.