Farm Bill Update - Ohio Will Be Significantly Represented at Conference

Amidst the government shut down and the fiscal cliff, congress is facing yet another challenge of bipartisanship. The Farm Bill, officially expired October 1st and one year past initial deadline, appears to finally be approaching a resolution. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives have nominated conferees to meet in a series of conference meetings that will resolve the next farm bill. Fortunately, Ohio is represented significantly at the Farm Bill conference, by both the House and the Senate. Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio will help represent the Senate’s Farm Bill Conference, and Democratic Congresswoman Marcia Fudge of Ohio will help represent the House of Representatives. Both Senator Brown and Congresswoman Fudge will help to support SNAP funding and the nutrition title.

The House brings to conference two bills; one agricultural bill, and one specific to the nutrition title, which proposes $40 billion cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Their nutrition title was created by an all-Republican committee after the partisan effort to separate the Nutrition title from the Farm Bill was unable to receive support from any Democratic member of the House. The senate on the other hand brings a traditional holistic Farm Bill, encompassing both agricultural and nutritional goals, and seeking instead $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP. Historically, the Farm Bill has encompassed both agricultural and nutrition assistance facets in order to unite rural and urban, republican and democratic ideals, into one piece of legislation that could benefit the country’s food system. While the Republican majority of the House supports the split Farm Bill, interestingly they are not receiving the support they anticipated from the major agricultural groups that they were attempting to represent. Early this week both the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union sent letters to the Farm Bill conferees, urging for among other things, a combined bill. Both traditionally conservative organizations stated that a successful farm bill must encompass the nutrition title, in order to gain support from not only both the House and Senate, but also the President.

While the Farm Bill that emerges from these sessions will likely combine both the SNAP program and related nutrition assistance services, with a wide range of agricultural programs, agreeing on cuts to this program will likely remain a major point of contention. Major House supporters of large cuts to SNAP, such as Steve Sutherland, will be represented in conference, as well as Democratic representatives who greatly oppose cuts to SNAP. No timeline has yet been set for the Farm Bill conference. For more information or updates about the Farm Bill, click on the links throughout this post, or check out this great resource: National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition