Farm bill agreement can’t come too soon

Word is coming out of Washington that House and Senate conferees have reached an agreement in principle that will break the impasse on a new farm bill. While the conferees are still awaiting cost estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and have to finalize the language in the proposal, it appears likely that Congress will be able to send the legislation to President Trump before the end of the year.

The big hangup in the normally bipartisan bill has been the insistence by House Republicans to include stricter work requirements for able-bodied people to received food stamps. The Senate version of the bill calls for no changes in the program, the Senate is unlikely to approve the House’s version. So it is likely that the House is giving up on its work requirement changes, perhaps for some other concessions from the Senate.

With a new Democratic-controlled House due to take over in January, this would be Republicans’ last chance to have some impact on the farm bill.

In the meantime, the farmers who are suffering from low commodity prices and the impact of Trump’s trade war on their markets are badly in need of some assurance and stability for the coming growing season. Decisions that should be made now on what to plant are riding on the programs and supports that would be included in the new farm bill. The sooner Congress can get it done, the better.

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