The 2014 Farm Bill expired quietly this past weekend (September 30) without any new legislation in its place, as lawmakers have been thus far unable to reach a consensus on a unified Farm Bill for 2018. The US House of Representatives broke for a recess before a cohesive version of the bill could be constructed.

Blame was placed on discrepancies between the House and Senate versions of the bill, as well as both political parties. A consensus could not be reached over key provisions in the bill, including the House provision that would add work requirements to food stamp benefits, which are currently administered under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Other issues preventing the passage of a unified version of the bill include language about workforce development and skill-building programs advocated for by Republicans.

The real deadline for the passage of a bill isn’t until December, as many of the programs do remain funded through that point, argued negotiators, who included Senator Debbie Stabenow (Democrat – Michigan) and Representative Collin Peterson (Democrat – Minnesota). However, no short-term extension or stop-gap measure came before the House recessed on Friday ahead of coming midterm elections.

Existing programs under the 2014 Farm Bill are still funded through December, although the looming November elections may prove difficult for compromise being reached on a 2018 Farm Bill. The 2018 Farm Bill contained the historic bipartisan effort to legalize hemp in the United States, and the inability to reach a consensus about new legislation means that one possible outcome, continuation of the 2014 Farm Bill, would not include any new legislation regarding the legal status of hemp. When new legislation would be proposed regarding the legal status of hemp is uncertain, but would likely have to come after the November elections and a lame-duck session of Congress.

Speaking about the inability to pass cohesive legislation, the House Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway (Republican – Texas) said, “It’s not just SNAP, it’s not just the farm bill, it’s not just conservation, it’s not title — it’s a variety of things that we have yet to come to grips with. It’s really frustrating, because no one of them — who are actually all of them, in combination — are worthy of us not getting this done. It’s just a matter of having the political will to make those hard choices.” Conaway also said, “Right now, I don’t get the sense that getting something done has quite the sense of urgency with my Senate colleagues as it does with me.”

A spokesperson from the Senate Agriculture Committee disagreed with Conaway, saying:

“From the start, the Senate has recognized the importance of passing a Farm Bill on time, which is why the Senate bill moved quickly and passed on a historic bipartisan vote. The Senate leaders are working tirelessly on a bipartisan basis to reach a final agreement. If House Republicans are serious about getting this done, they should put politics aside and focus on working towards a compromise.”
Representative Rodney Davis (Republican – Illinois) indicated that he’s optimistic a compromise on the bill text can be reached before December, but that politics may play a role in progress.
Senator Pat Roberts (Republican – Kansas), the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, indicated on Monday, October 1, 2018 that continued negotiations will take place this week.

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