Major U.S. Congressional Agriculture Actions in 2018Grain glitch fix and cotton support revamp
- The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act inadvertently created a large incentive for farmers to sell to co-ops instead of private companies.
- The omnibus appropriations bill passed in March attempted to fix the â€œGrain Glitchâ€ but some critics believe it made the problem worse.
- In the Bipartisan Budget Act, Congress redefined cotton as an â€œother seed oilâ€ which makes it eligible for crop supports created by the 2014 Farm Bill.
Status: Passed in February and March 2018Congress passes a compromise Farm Bill
- Congress passed a compromise Farm Bill two months past the October 1 deadline.
- The passage had previously been held up by debates over changes to SNAP and Freedom Caucus demands forÂ votes on immigration.
- Democrats created a unified front against adding any stricter work provisions for SNAP.
Status: Signed into law 12/20/18Hemp legalization
- Hemp legalization became a major priority for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), whose state is expected to be a major producer.
- Hemp was previously illegal to grow based on its connection to marijuana production, but a USDA pilot program showed that hemp could not be used for drug manufacturing.
- McConnellâ€™s bill was included in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Status: Hemp was legalized with the passage of the 2018 Farm BillSources: National Journal Research, 2018; congress.gov; Catherine Boudreau and Helena Bottemiller Evich, â€œFarm Bill compromise primed for passage,â€ Politico, December 11, 2018.
Trump Administration Agriculture Recap
Tariffs and retaliatory tariffs
- President Trump declared Sect. 232 national security tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from all countries, with some exceptions granted later.
- He later declared Sect. 301, unfair trade tariffs against China.
- Many countries have imposed retaliatory tariffs specifically on agricultural products, especially soy, corn, and alcoholic beverages.
Commodity support programs
- To help alleviate the pain of retaliatory tariffs on farmers, the Trump administration announced $12 billion in support through multiple USDA programs.
- The first round of payments totaling $4.7 billion was released in August.
- The White House has since delayed the second round of payments.
- The Trump administration has reversed Obama-era requirements on nutrition in school lunches.
- They decrease targets for salt reduction, decrease whole grain requirements and allow schools to offer non-skim flavored milk.
- Nutrition providers had complained that the Obama-era rules made school lunches unappetizing and we’re seeing more food disposed of.Â
I am a Tariff Man. When people or countries come in to raid the great wealth of our Nation, I want them to pay for the privilege of doing so. â€“ President Trump
Sources: National Journal Research, 2018; Chad P. Brown and Melina Kolb, â€œTrumpâ€™s Trade War Timeline: An Up-to-Date Guide,â€ PIEE, August 21, 2018; Chad P. Brown & Melinda Kolb, â€œTrumpâ€™s Trade. War Timeline: An Up-to-Date Guide,â€ Peterson Institute for International Economics, September 24, 2018.
Potential 2019 Congressional Agriculture Agenda Items
Passage of the USMCA
- President Trump intends to formally withdraw from NAFTA in mid-2019, which places a deadline for USCMAâ€™s passage through Congress.
- If Congress does not pass the new trade deal and Trump withdraws the US, agriculture trade to Mexico and Canada could be severely disrupted.
Potential legislation: USCMA ratification
- President Trump must secure the support of House Democrats in order to ratify the new trade agreement.
- Bobby Scott (D-VA), the new chair of the House Education & Workforce Committee, opposes the deal.
- Republican Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have also been critical of the deal.
Increased oversight of the Trump administrationâ€™s commodity support program
- Incoming House Agriculture Committee Chair Colin Peterson (D-MN) has been critical of the Trump administrationâ€™s trade war with China.
- He could hold oversight hearings on the implementation of the commodity support program for farmers impacted by the trade war.
â€œI donâ€™t agree with what [Trump is] doing as it relates to agricultureâ€¦I donâ€™t see any scenario where agriculture is going to be better off than we were before all this started with Chinaâ€Â â€” Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN)
Sources: National Journal Research, 2018; Jeff Stein. â€œHeâ€™s an architect in Manhattan. He got $3,300 from Trumpâ€™s farm bailout.â€ The Washington Post. November 19, 2018.
Potential 2019 Trump Administration Agriculture Agenda Items
SNAP work requirement rules
- 36 states currently waive work requirements for parts of their SNAP-eligible populations.
- USDA plans to issue a rule after the final passage of the Farm Bill to rein in state exemptions.
- The Trump administration announced this plan separately from the Farm Bill to placate conservative Republicans and allow for smooth passage of the Farm Bill.
- The Clean Water Act requires stricter protections of â€œWaters of the United States,â€ but defining that term has been controversial.
- A proposed WOTUS definition was released on December 11, 2018, by the EPA and US Army Corps to replace a controversial Obama-era 2015 rule.
- The new definition gives more flexibility to individual farmers to determine water rights and federal jurisdiction on their properties.
Forest Service revamps
- The chief of the Forest Service resigned in March following the revelation of sexual harassment allegations against him.
- President Trump has also been publicly critical of the forest management after record years for forest fires with over 80 deaths in the California â€œCamp Fireâ€
â€œWe would have liked to see more progress on work requirements for SNAP recipients and forest management reformsâ€Â â€” Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue
Sources: National Journal Research, 2018; USDA; Politico Morning Agriculture; â€œThe Trump administration against healthy eating,â€ The Economist, December 13, 2018.