The current Farm Bill was passed in 2014 and is set to expire in September 2018. Both the U.S. House and Senate have each developed their own versions of a replacement Farm Bill which will need to be reconciled at Conference later in the year.
House Farm Bill fails passage
The House version of the Farm Bill has been the subject of much partisan debate and politicking, and a May 18th floor vote failed to garner enough votes to pass. The bill includes a change to the work requirements of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which would require certain participants to work 20 hours a week or enroll in a training program. This change, which was opposed by the House Democrats, would apply to SNAP recipients between the ages of 18 and 59, who are not disabled or elderly, and are not pregnant or caring for a child under the age of 6 (approximately 5-7 million current participants).
Additionally, the House Freedom Caucus demanded that a vote be taken on immigration legislation before their members would support the Farm Bill. At this juncture, the bill likely will not be brought up for another vote until there is a vote on immigration legislation. Even if that issue is handled first, the bill still faces Democrat opposition unless amendments are made to the SNAP changes.
Senate Ag Committee Passes Farm Bill
On June 8, Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) released the Senate version of the Farm Bill. The bill was heard for markup in the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry on Wednesday, June 13, where it passed with a 20-1 vote. Next will be a Senate floor vote.
The bill is considered much more bi-partisan, with both Roberts and Stabenow listed as sponsors. The changes to the SNAP working requirements that were in the House version are not in the Senate version of the bill. This disparity will likely have to be sorted out at Conference.