It looks like a federal farm bill will arrive just in time for farmers and ranchers' Christmas stockings. The Senate on Tuesday voted 87-13 to approve the $867 billion compromise version; on Wednesday, the House gave it their okay on a 369-47 vote.
Three of Colorado's four Republican House members -- departing U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman of Aurora, Rep. Doug Lamborn of Colorado Springs and Rep. Ken Buck of Greeley, all voted against the bill. Democratic Rep. and incoming Gov. Jared Polis of Boulder did not vote.
On Monday, the congressional conference committee working on a resolution released their recommendations on the final bill. It was almost immediately cheered by U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, who said he will encourage President Trump to sign it.
The Senate passed the $867 million measure on Tuesday by an 87-13 vote over the opposition of some Republicans. House action on the bill is expected later in the week.
The farm bill, formally known as the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, is a five-year extension of various agricultural programs as well as food assistance to low-income Americans.
In a statement, Perdue said the bill "maintains a strong safety net for the farm economy, invests in critical agricultural research, and will promote agriculture exports through robust trade programs.
"While we would have liked to see more progress on work requirements for [food stamp] recipients and forest management reforms, the conference agreement does include several helpful provisions and we will continue to build upon these through our authorities," he said.
The Trump administration had hoped for sweeping changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation's food stamp program. Those changes would have ramped up work requirements for those receiving food assistance, but the Senate never included those changes in their version.
As a result the enhanced work requirements did not make it into the compromise version the Senate passed Tuesday.
Also among the bill's features: legalization of hemp.
The legislation would federally legalize cultivation and distribution of industrial hemp, which is still classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a schedule 1 drug. That should please hemp activists, tweeted Kristen Nichols, editor at Hemp Industry Daily:
The conference committee report also won praise from the Humane Society of the United States, whose legislative arm had championed several amendments to the measure to protect animals.
Among them: a provision to allow pets in domestic violence shelters; a prohibition on domestic slaughter, trade, and import/export of dogs and cats for human consumption; and and extending federal bans on animal fighting to U.S. territories.
U.S. Rep. Colin Petersen, D-Michigan, a member of the conference committee, said in a statement Monday that the bill will provide a "strong start to addressing the issues our producers are facing right now, particularly our dairy farmers."
That includes an investment of $300 million in prevention and treatment of pests and disease, and "research, outreach to beginning and under-served producers, local and organic food production, bioenergy, and access to new markets. It also addresses broadband, farm stress and mental health issues, and the opioid epidemic in rural areas," he said.
U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colorado, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry said Tuesday, “We committed to passing a Farm Bill this year, and that’s exactly what we intend to do. We appreciate the conference committee’s hard work to reach a bipartisan bill that legalizes hemp, conserves land and water, combats climate change, and bolsters economic security in rural communities. The finish line is in sight. Now Congress needs to do what’s right for Colorado and send this bill to the President’s desk.”
His Republican colleague, U.S. Cory Gardner, also voted for the measure Tuesday.
“As a fifth generation Coloradan from a small town on the Eastern Plains where agriculture is a way of life, I know how important it is that Congress has reached a bipartisan agreement on the Farm Bill,” Gardner said in a statement. “As a result of low commodity prices, our agriculture community has been struggling for the past few years and this has had a profound impact on my own community and rural communities across the state and country. The Farm Bill provides long-term certainty to farmers and ranchers throughout Colorado and even includes provisions that will specifically help Colorado farmers and ranchers.
“Several provisions I worked on include providing farmers and ranchers relief from drought, using technology to better implement dryland farming practices, providing resources to combat deadly diseases that wipe out hop fields, and making industrial hemp legal to make sure Colorado farmers are free to use their land how they see fit," Gardner added. "All of these initiatives will help Colorado’s agriculture community and this is another example of how Congress can work together in a bipartisan manner to help the American people.”