Senate 2018 farm bill approved by full Senate

Bipartisan farm bill gets solid vote of 86-11 in final debate on Thursday.

After a dustup Thursday over a Cuba amendment, the full Senate was able to advance its farm bill by a strong bipartisan vote of 86-11. The action brings together for conferencing two farm bills with distinct differences on how to handle nutrition assistance, payment limitations and conservation programs.

The Senate voted on only a handful of amendments, while Senate Agriculture Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R., Kan.) and ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) did much of the approving of which amendments were allowed and could be brought together as a bloc amendment. Roberts said 171 amendments were included in the final package from the committee process through the full floor debate.

The Senate voted on three amendments: Sen. Mike Lee’s (R., Utah) checkoff reform amendment failed; Sen. John Thune’s (R., S.D.) amendment to allow for additional haying and grazing on Conservation Reserve Program acres passed by a voice vote, and Roberts' substitute #3224, as amended, passed by a voice vote.

The failed checkoff amendment vote was a win for commodity groups. "We're happy that producers can continue to lead the checkoff system and contract with whatever producer-led groups will best promote beef consumption and research," said Kevin Kester, president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Assn.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) tweeted Thursday afternoon: “Today, the Senate adopted my amendment to the 2018 farm bill that prevents taxpayer funds for agricultural export promotion from going to the Cuban regime's pocket.”

Stabenow recognized Roberts' great leadership and partnership on advancing the final bill, saying, “He has stayed true to our commitment to deliver a bipartisan bill.”

House Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway (R., Texas) congratulated the Senate on the bill's passage. “Passage today of the Senate farm bill reflects a hard-fought victory, and I commend chairman Roberts for his tireless efforts. I look forward to working together to send a strong, new farm bill to the President’s desk,” Conaway said.

The Senate version secures an additional $100 million in funding for the dairy title baseline. The Senate version of the farm bill contains enhancements to the dairy Margin Protection Program (MPP) sought by the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), including improved coverage levels and greater program flexibility. The bill – which renames MPP as the “Dairy Risk Coverage” program – raises the maximum covered margin to $9/cwt. and adjusts the minimum percentage of milk that can be insured. It also includes an important agreement reached between NMPF and the International Dairy Foods Assn. on price risk management.

The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) commended the Senate for working together in a bipartisan fashion to move the farm bill forward, out of the chamber and on to conference.

“It’s vital for a final farm bill to be reauthorized before the Sept. 30 deadline so that farmers can have certainty that a safety net and strong risk management tools will continue to be in place during these uncertain economic times in farm country,” NAWG president Jimmie Musick said. “NAWG calls for a speedy conference and for the conferees to be chosen quickly.”

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