Congress working toward farm bill, continuing resolution, waterways bill

Farm Bureau is tracking many issues at the federal level that could impact farmers, and three of them have new developments: Farm Bill, Continuing Resolution and Water Resources Reform and Development Act. Below are brief updates on each of these issues.

Farm Bill

Last Friday the U.S. House of Representatives passed a nutrition bill which is effectively the nutrition title which the House removed from its version of the farm bill it passed in July. The bill contains a number of reforms to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The next step for a new farm bill is the conference process, which will work to resolve the differences between the House and Senate versions of the farm bill. The House must name conferees for this process to begin. The Senate conferees have already been named and include Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30. While the conference process for this farm bill will not be completed by the end of the month, hopes are still that the farm bill will be completed sometime this fall. The farm bill we are operating under was a nine-month extension of the 2008 Farm Bill. As we look to what the future holds, the Nutrition Title and Crop Insurance Title will continue, as they are permanent law. However, the MILC program will expire, no new contracts will be allowed for several conservation programs, all specialty crop programs will expire and commodity programs will go away in the 2014 crop year.

Congress needs to hear that we need a five-year farm bill that provides risk-management and stability for Ohio and our nation’s farmers. Congress needs to hear your personal story of how your farm has been and will be impacted by the farm bill.

Learn more and tell Congress that we need a farm bill now.

Continuing Resolution

The House has passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) which would keep the government running in the short term. If Congress does not pass a CR by Sept. 30, the government will be shut down.

The short-term CR passed by the House prevents a shutdown through Dec. 15. It contains $986 billion in funding, which keeps in place sequester level funding and a provision that permanently defunds the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The CR now moves to the Senate for consideration. The Senate will likely add the ACA funding back into the CR, keep the funding level at $988 million and will need to overcome a potential Republican filibuster to do these two things. If the CR passes the Senate, then it will go back to the House for another vote.

Water Resources Reform and Development Act

Last week, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously passed the Water Resources Reform and Development Act (WRRDA) that will update the nation’s waterways infrastructure, helping modernize the lock and dam infrastructure on the inland waterways system while also making necessary investments in the nation’s shipping ports.

In May, the Senate passed its version of the WRRDA. The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved the measure and action on the House floor is expected in early October.

Ohio Rep. Bob Gibbs has been very involved with this bill as a co-sponsor. Here is what he said about the bill:

“It was important to me as chairman of the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee to have WRRDA move through the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee quickly because this bill promotes economic growth and job creation. WRRDA 2013 was approved in committee with unanimous bipartisan support due to its common sense reforms that reduce red tape and streamline transportation projects in the process. With our country’s trade volume expected to double within the next decade and double again in 2030, it is important that our infrastructure is safe and effective. Ohio’s agriculture heavily relies on maritime transportation and with WRRDA’s reforms we will improve our inland waterways and ports to meet the future needs of our agricultural producers.”

Learn more about WRRDA and why it is important to farmers.