This week, United States Senator Debbie Stabenow, succeeded in getting the farm bill she co-authored passed in the Senate. The bipartisan bill was passed in a 86-11 majority, according to Politico. The Democratic Senator teamed up with United States Senator from Kansas, Pat Roberts, to write the bill. Senator Roberts is the GOP chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, where Senator Stabenow is a ranking member. Over the course of several months, Stabenow designed the bill to save the agriculture industry in her home state of Michigan.
Since spring, Michigan farmers have been losing money after China’s announcement that they would be slapping the United States with a 25% tariff on U.S. imports in retaliation to Donald Trump’s 25% tariff on Chinese imports worth $34 billion. In April, on the day after China’s announcement, U.S. soybean farmers lost $1.7 billion in United States commodities markets. Soybean is one of Michigan’s biggest exports, but this month, the U.S. Agriculture Department reported that after the tariffs went into effect, China cancelled orders of 366,000 metric tons of soybeans from the United States. That being said, there is fear among farmers in the United States, and Michigan especially, who are uncertain about how severe the impact of the tariffs will be in the near future.
The $867 billion bill, titled, S. 3042 (115), will expire in 5 years, and is a re-authorization of the initial farming bill that Senator Stabenow wrote in 2014, which was passed and expires on September 30th of this year. The re-authorized bill provides a renewal of programs that are imperative to the agriculture industry, including rural development, food aid for low-income families, farming research, and farm subsidies.
Unlike the Senate bill, which was heavily supported by both parties, the House version of the bill was rejected by Democrats, not even receiving a single vote. The House bill was too controversial due to its amendment to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which would make work requirements for the program stricter for up to 7 million recipients. The method was then supported in the Senate by Republican Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, John Kennedy of Louisiana, and Mike Lee of Utah. This could have resulted in over 400,000 households losing their qualifications to stay on the program. To ensure that this did not happen, Senator Stabenow modified the SNAP portion of the bill with organizational changes and the employment of strategies that will be used to combat SNAP fraud. Stabenow, who is up for re-election in Michigan this November, told The Detroit News, “The House bill is bad for Michigan on a thousand different fronts… It has to be bipartisan to get through the Senate.”
In the coming weeks, senior members of the Agriculture committees in both the Senate and House of Representatives will meet in a conference committee to deliberate on modifications to the bill before making an agreement on the legislation’s final version. The two chambers are allegedly rushing to get the bill passed as soon as possible in attempt to prevent the United States agriculture industry from being damaged any further by additional tariffs imposed on the United States by Canada and Mexico; again in retaliation to Donald Trump’s trade policies.
Only time will tell just how badly the retaliatory tariffs will cause detriment to America’s farming sector, after being enforced by China, Canada, Mexico, and the European Union on U.S. goods worth $53.4 billion.
Check back soon for updates on the 2018 Farm Bill!