Congress Passes Farm Bill

Last week, Congress approved a five-year Farm Bill, which President Trump has indicated he intends to sign.

The bill passed with strong support in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, with votes of 87-13 and 369-47, respectively. Earlier in the week, the Big “I” and several state associations submitted a letter for the congressional record urging passage of the bill.

The Farm Bill reauthorizes many farm support programs and legalizes hemp production—meaning hemp farmers will be eligible to purchase federal crop insurance. Among other things, the bill also reauthorizes the supplemental nutrition assistance program, commonly referred to as SNAP, with only minor revisions, and does not make major changes as the House had previously contemplated.

Of note for Big “I” members, the Farm Bill protects the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP). The bill mostly maintains status quo for the program, with only relatively minor changes and no substantive cuts. Over the past year, the Big “I” and several Big “I” state associations successfully advocated against multiple amendments to the Farm Bill that would have limited participation in crop insurance, made insurance more expensive for farmers, or harmed private-sector delivery of the FCIP.

In another win for Big “I” members, during negotiations to finalize the Farm Bill, the Big “I” and other agent trade associations worked together to obtain language to address a recent court decision that could potentially expand rebating in the FCIP, which the Big “I” opposes.

The conference report—a document that helps show legislative intent and give direction to the USDA and Risk Management Agency (RMA) on how to implement the Farm Bill—included language noting that rebating is “strictly prohibited” in the FCIP, with only “specific limited exceptions.” The report also commended RMA, which oversees the FCIP, for taking rebating prohibitions seriously.

Following the successful passage of a Farm Bill that supports a strong FCIP, the Big “I” will continue to work with Congress to avoid future attempts to make cuts to the program though the budgeting process or otherwise. The association will also work with RMA to help ensure that the crop insurance title of the Farm Bill is implemented appropriately.

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