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Senate, House committee leadership reach agreement on Farm Bill

By Abraham Kenmore • Nov 30, 2018 at 11:33 AM

Representatives from the House and the Senate announced on Thursday that they have reached an “agreement in principle” on the Farm Bill.

The sweeping farm legislation will set federal, agricultural and nutritional policy for the next five years. It covers a wide range of issues, including protections for specialty crops, access to rural broadband, changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and a number of dairy protections.

The statement from the House and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairs includes no information about how the differences in the two bills — particularly around changes to SNAP — have been resolved.

“We’re pleased to announce that we’ve reached an agreement in principle on the 2018 Farm Bill,” the statement reads. “We are working to finalize legal and report language as well as (Congressional Budget Office) scores, but we still have more work to do. We are committed to delivering a new farm bill to America as quickly as possible.”

The office of U.S. Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who sits on the Senate Agriculture Committee, did not have a comment until more details are released.

The office of U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., sent a quote from the senator during a news conference on Thursday, when a reporter asked about the final agreement being hung up over provisions related to wildfires.

“We’re making good progress on the farm bill,” Sen. Schumer said. “Sen. (Debbie) Stabenow (Democratic Senate representative to the conference) is working very hard with Sen. (Pat) Roberts (Republican representative to the conference). The only thing left is some forestry provisions and we’re making progress on that. We hope we can get a farm bill this year.”

Sen. Schumer’s staff also sent a follow-up statement.

“We have worked day and night, and in a bipartisan fashion, to craft a comprehensive farm bill that will help New York’s vital agricultural sector and family farms,” Sen. Schumer was quoted as saying in an email to the Times. “We are on the 1 yard line and I am hopeful the committee will announce it has finished its work shortly.”

U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik’s office said she found the agreement encouraging.

“We are awaiting details of the final agreement but are encouraged by the reports of progress in the negotiations,” wrote Stefanik spokesman Tom Flanagin. “Congresswoman Stefanik’s priority is ensuring support for our North Country farmers, especially our dairy producers who have faced a crisis in recent years. Congresswoman Stefanik led on many initiatives in the House-passed Farm Bill and hopes that an agreement can be passed soon.”

The House version of the bill had a rocky journey to approval. It was initially voted down by members of the Republican Freedom Caucus who wanted a vote on an immigration bill, then passed by the House later in the summer.

Democrats voted against it also due proposed changes to SNAP that created new work requirements for benefit recipients and harsh penalties for failing to meet them. Democrats said the changes would force many people who needed assistance out of the program.

The version passed by the Senate did not include the revisions to SNAP.

The New York Farm Bureau expressed their support for the agreement.

“While we have yet to see specific details, we are hopeful that final passage of the legislation will give farmers some reassurance moving forward that critical risk management tools will be in place as they plan the best they can for next year,” wrote State Farm Bureau President David Fisher. “Improvements to the dairy safety net, the continuation of important conservation programs as well as support and research programs for New York’s specialty crop producers are much needed in this tough farm economy ... We encourage our Senators and Representatives to support the compromise legislation.”

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©2018 Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.)

Visit Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, N.Y.) at www.watertowndailytimes.com

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