Last month Congress passed a new, $867 billion Farm Bill with bi-partisan support. The House vote was 369-47 (16 members not voting), and the Senate vote was 87-13. All but one of the Kansas and Missouri legislators voted in favor of the bill. Representative Vicki Hartzler (R) of Missouri was one of the 16 legislators who did not vote.
As you might guess from the bi-partisan support it received, the 2018 Farm Bill Legislation is a mixed bag rather than an ideological package. It was a moderate bill which more closely resembled the Senate’s priorities, and which tended to protect the status quo. The following comments draw upon analyses by National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, Environmental Working Group, Farm Aid, Feeding America, Food Research Action Center, and the Rural Coalition, among others.
The Greater KC Food Policy Coalition rallied advocates to help shape Farm Bill policy that would put healthy food on the plates of struggling Americans and support local farms and economies. To focus our efforts, we identified three priority areas: conservation, research and extension and nutrition.
The coalition’s priorities for the 2018 Farm Bill fared well, on the whole.
We are pleased by these victories, and congratulate the legislators and advocates who worked to secure them, including Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (KS, R), and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (MI, D).
The 2018 Farm Bill included:
Nonetheless, it is critical to acknowledge significant problems in the 2018 Farm Bill.
A variety of leading food system advocacy groups have noted that the legislation fails to adequately address many of the most urgent issues facing our food system, such as climate instability, low incomes for family farms, environmental destruction and soil quality, consolidation of farm and food processing as well as rural population shifts.
These failures often compound problems created by past bills, including critical underfunding of highly sought after conservation, research and extension programs that help growers learn about and adopt sustainable practices and adapt to changing conditions.
Here is a bit more information about the good and the bad for the coalition’s priorities in conservation, research and extension, and nutrition, followed by links to additional analyses and statements about the 2018 Farm Bill.
Funding was preserved or increased:
However, the bill fails in critical ways:
Although fending off cuts to conservation funding was a considerable victory in light of attacks by the House, stable conservation funding in the context of urgent need and high demand amounts to a devastating failure to act. It is not the Farm Bill we needed.
Research and Extension
Funding was increased and strong programs were created or reauthorized:
Unfortunately, the bill does not substantially address a key priority of the coalition:
Anti-hunger advocates successfully defended SNAP (food stamps) against structural changes and funding cuts. This is a big victory in light of the attacks on SNAP proposed by the House.
These victories are tempered, however, by more new attacks on SNAP by the Trump administration.
The same day the 2018 Farm Bill was signed into law, USDA announced a proposed administrative rule to accomplish what they could not pass legislatively; structural changes to SNAP. The USDA estimates that the proposed changes would threaten SNAP eligibility of 755,000 workers across the nation. Food pantries, already unable to meet existing demand, will not be able to serve these additional households. Hunger in America will increase.
The proposed rule changes must go through a formal public review period before they can be adopted. Such public review can result in delays, changes, withdrawal or approval. Various national allies are organizing now to oppose the proposed change, including: Food Research Action Council, Feeding America, Center for American Progress, Center for Budget and Policy Priorities and others. This will include providing resources to help people and organizations submit their own “public comment,” an easy process similar to emailing a letter stating your opinion.
We are tracking these efforts and will keep you updated about how you can make a difference on this and other matters relating to implementation of Farm Bill policies and programs. In the meantime, you can learn more about the 2018 Farm Bill and the proposed SNAP rule change using the following links.
By Beth Low-Smith
Center for Budget & Policy Priorities
Environmental Working Group
Feeding America: Farm Bill / USDA Proposed Rule on SNAP
Food Policy Action
Food Research Action Center: Farm Bill / USDA Proposed Rule on SNAP
National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition: Farm Bill Conservation Title / Farm Bill Research Title