Farm Bill gets Trump signature

Farm subsidies expanded, but president takes new stab at work requirements for food stamps

President Trump is expected to sign a new Farm Bill into law. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

President Trump is expected to sign a new Farm Bill into law. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

The belated 2018 Farm Bill has been signed by President Trump.

After the last Farm Bill expired Sept. 30, both houses of Congress passed a new compromise last week with large majorities voting in favor.

The House approved it by a 386-47 vote, the Senate by a 87-13 vote.

The $867 billion bill expands farm subsidies in the face of falling prices due to President Trump’s trade war with China, while holding the line on a proposed expansion of work requirements to receive food stamps.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “It provides a strong safety net for farmers and ranchers, who need the dependability and certainty this legislation affords.”

Yet Sen. Chuck Grassley, a conservative Republican Iowa farmer, actually voted against the bill because it expanded subsidies to distant relations of farmers, such as their cousins, nieces, and nephews.

“I’m very disappointed the conferees decided to expand the loopholes on farm subsidies,” Grassley said. “I’ve been trying to make sure the people who get the subsidies are real farmers. … I’ve been trying for three years, and it gets worse and worse and worse.”

Trump signed it Thursday, but also made a new attempt to expand work requirements for food stamps through an executive order.

Nonetheless, the Illinois Farm Bureau endorsed the new legislation. It pointed out it had urged its members to lobby the Illinois congressional delegation to support the bill, and all 18 representatives and both senators voted for it.

“Thanks to the continued, bipartisan work of our Illinois delegation, this bill will help all Illinois farmers — young and experienced — successfully navigate through this difficult period of stagnant farm income and trade-policy uncertainty,” said IFB President Richard Guebert Jr.

Illinois Soybean Growers likewise cheered the new Farm Bill. “Sound farm policy provides producers with stability, and that’s much needed in today’s down farm economy and changing trade environment,” said Chairwoman Lynn Rohrscheib, a Fairmount farmer. Pointing out that Illinois is “the leading soybean state in the nation,” she added that the group “looks to the future with renewed vigor, knowing that the Farm Bill, a producer’s greatest risk management tool, is in place.”

The federal bill also approves industrial hemp, something Illinois adopted earlier this year. The final bill rejected expanded work requirements to receive food stamps.

Sen. Tammy Duckworth issued a statement saying: “This bipartisan legislation will give Illinois farmers the support they need and help them remain competitive while supporting millions of jobs, making important investments in rural America and protecting our environment.”

Sen. Dick Durbin boasted of how he worked to have the bill “reauthorize a federal grant program that directly supports rural Emergency Medical Services agencies in training and recruiting staff,” a key for farm communities facing diminished options in health care.

“Rural EMS agencies are the backbone of their communities,” Durbin said. “When I met with (emergency medical technicians) and fire chiefs across Illinois this year, they explained how they’re asked to do so much — responding to the opioid crisis and the needs of an aging America — often with scarce resources and tight budgets.”

Durbin added, “The president should waste no time signing this bill into law.”