With the rules of debate decided, the U.S. House began debate May 16 on the 2018 farm bill, technically known as H.R.2.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-TX, led off the debate, saying, “Times are not good right now in the Heartland. Our nation’s farmers and ranchers are struggling in the midst of a five-year recession with no end in sight. Net farm income has been cut in half over this period of time. As a result, rural America is not partaking in the economic recovery that urban counterparts are experiencing.”
Conaway then moved onto the elephant in the room—the change in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program proposed by Republicans.
“It is no secret that we do not have a bipartisan farm bill process at the moment. I regret this deeply,” Conaway said. “Ultimately, Democrats and Republicans chose to agree to disagree on the question of whether work-capable adults should work or get free work training for 20 hours per week to be eligible for SNAP benefits.
“I respect my colleagues on the other side of the aisle, but I do want to be clear about something: this farm bill in no way, shape, or form disrespects Americans who depend on SNAP. To the contrary, the farm bill keeps faith with SNAP beneficiaries, providing needed benefits and something more: the dignity that comes from work and the promise of a better life that a job brings.
Conaway dug in his heels at the end of his opening remarks to attack extremists on either side of the farm bill debate.
“Note that there is a cottage industry in this town that is determined to defeat this farm bill. They want this House to ignore the realities of Mother Nature and the predatory trade practices of foreign countries and turn your back on farm and ranch families struggling to hang on in the face of hard times.
“Not on our watch. I urge my colleagues to stand by the hard-working families that put food on our tables and clothes on our backs and still live every day by the values that make this country truly great. Stand up for rural America. Pass this farm bill.”
For his part, ranking member Collin Peterson, D-MN, attacked Republicans for producing what he called the most partisan farm bill he’d seen.