The Senate and House of Representatives have passed their versions of the Farm Bill. Now it will be up to a Conference Committee to resolve the differences between the two pieces of legislation that took radically different paths to passage.

The House bill’s “work requirement” reforms to nutrition programs caused Republicans and Democrats to dig partisan trenches, dooming the legislation to eke out a razor-thin victory along party lines. The Senate bill passed 86-11, as it aimed for very modest reforms to the politically sensitive welfare sections.

Crop insurance programs are largely unchanged from the last Farm Bill, with a few differences between the chambers. This critical title that plays a major role in the stability of agricultural equipment demand isn’t expected to be a point of significant contention in the Conference Committee.

Also on the Committee’s to do list is the AEM-led Precision Ag Connectivity Act (PACA) which was included in both Farm Bills, though with minor differences in the Senate’s. AEM expects the variance to be resolved without controversy.

Once enacted, PACA will direct the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) and U.S. Department of Agriculture to work together to identify gaps in farm and ranchlands wireless coverage. Then, policies will be recommended to fill 90-percent of those gaps by 2025. It will be an important step in changing the way the FCC thinks about rural broadband as we strive to build the information infrastructure that modern production agriculture increasingly needs to be successful.

The fate of the Farm Bill will primarily be determined by the degree to which House Republican leaders are willing to compromise on the nutrition title. But given the realities of a tough election season ahead, the agricultural community can count on lawmakers’ sense of self-preservation to avoid heading into November without a Farm Bill to show for their efforts.

Additionally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is personally invested in the Farm Bill. He has spent considerable political capital to see the legalization of industrial hemp be included in the Senate version. He believes industrial hemp is a crop that former tobacco farmers in Kentucky can utilize to their advantage.    

The clock is ticking as the current Farm Bill expires at the end of September. AEM will be working to ensure it doesn’t hit zero before the President’s signature is on the new one. 

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