Conference Committee Prepares for Farm Bill

A look into the items needed for the 2018 farm bill to pass before the Sept. 30 deadline. A glance of NSP’s involvement in past and present farm bills up to this point.

Written By: Jennifer Blackburn

It’s August recess, and while Washington can be fairly quiet during this month, it is not all play on Capitol Hill. The clock is ticking, and a Sept. 30 deadline to pass a new farm bill is quickly approaching. Congressional leadership and agriculture committee leaders and their staffs feel it, but farmers and ranchers are particularly on edge, anticipating a bipartisan resolve to assuage the economic uncertainty felt in America’s heartland.

The four principals of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees met the last week of July, and the next month will include staff time, clearing as much underbrush as possible in order to distill matters down to a handful of issues, which will require Members to decide.

Both bills are solid for sorghum farmers with stability under the farm bill safety net, attention to resource conserving crops like sorghum in the conservation title, strong crop insurance that preserves the most important risk management tool sorghum farmers have with direction to improve sorghum specific policies, and a trade title that provides critical funding for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development.

There are a number of obstacles to reaching an agreement on a conference report. The handling of food stamps will be key. Money is another issue with a flat line budget and a slew of new needs and wants that have been identified, not least of which is the real need to strengthen the farm safety net under the Commodity Title to help producers contend with the current economic environment.

Then there is time. Leaders are working to finish by Sept. 30, but in reality, striking a deal by the second week of October prior to breaking for elections is critical. If not then, lawmakers may be faced with a lame duck consideration, which is the best guess of many. Though it tarry, wait for it, and between now and then, National Sorghum Producers will continue to advocate for a fair and meaningful farm bill.