An $867 billion federal Farm Bill was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Thursday (Dec. 20) as several Arkansas agricultural supporters were on-hand for the bill signing, including U.S. Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark.
The five-year federal agricultural policy and spending measure includes a provision that legalizes industrial hemp and does not include work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps, a contentious point of debate that bottled up the bill for months.
Highlights of the Farm Bill include:
- Bringing another five years of certainty to farm and ranch families;
- Improving risk management programs;
- Protecting crop insurance;
- Funding trade development;
- Investing in the future with funding for ag research and beginning farmer programs;
- Continuing nutrition assistance/food stamps (SNAP) for lower-income Americans; and
- No increase to the federal deficit.
Boozman, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry and a member of the conference committee that authored the final 2018 Farm Bill, said the bill was critical for farmers to have certainty going forward.
“Signing this bill into law provides five years of certainty and predictability for America’s agriculture producers, everyday consumers and rural communities. Throughout this Congress, my priority has been to strengthen the ability of Arkansas farmers and ranchers to continue to be leaders in feeding and clothing the world. This farm bill improves essential programs for Arkansans, and I was proud to play a role in writing this law. I appreciate President Trump’s support of the bipartisan effort and hard work that went into getting this across the finish line,” said Boozman, who was joined at the White House bill signing by Arkansas Farm Bureau President Randy Veach, board member Terry Dabbs and Director of Government Affairs Matt King.
Legalizing hemp could make it a significant agricultural crop in the coming years. Analysts with CNBC estimate it could be a $20 billion industry by 2022. Hemp is the fiber and seed portion of the Cannabis Sativa L. plant, according to hemp.com. The flower portion is marijuana. The versatile agricultural product is used in oils, plastics, protein powders, drinks, food, and others.
Efforts to add work requirements to the SNAP program split along party lines as Republicans pushed for greater reforms to the spending part of the bill that accounts for nearly three-fourths of the measure. In the end, the GOP backed down on that requirement.
“The SNAP program in the Farm Bill is a fundamental issue that keeps hundreds of people in our community from severe levels of hunger,” said Helena Mayor-Elect Kevin Smith. “We here in the heart of the Delta rely on SNAP more than most areas and we are glad that our House delegation, and Sen. Boozman worked out this compromise that preserves SNAP intact.”
U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, were also on the conference committee with Boozman.
Crawford touted the farm bill’s Cuba trade provision, which he said would allow U.S. commodity exporters to use USDA market promotion funding in the island nation where Arkansas farmers would like to sell more rice and poultry. Westerman said Congress moved “the ball forward” with the bill providing farm “families the protection and relief they need during these hard times.”
All four of Arkansas’ Republican Congressmen voted for the Farm Bill law. While Boozman championed the cause, Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., voted against the bill claiming the food stamp revisions did not go far enough.
“I am grateful to see leaders from both parties in Congress working for a compromise that will support the all-important nutrition programs and other farm bill provisions that are crucial for east Arkansas and the entire Delta region,” said Rep. Reginald Murdock, D-Marianna.
The Farm Bill was first created during the Great Depression in 1933. It includes farm aid, the federal food stamp program, conservation programs, and other programs impacted by agriculture. It’s typically revised every five years.
Arkansas farmers were aided earlier this week by President Trump authorizing USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue to release a second round of trade mitigation payments. Trump has set up a $12 billion bailout fund for farmers hit by trade tariffs with countries like China.