Farm Bill

Don’t Expect a Dramatic Finish as Ryan Runs to the Tape
Retiring speaker unlikely to rock the boat during the midterms

Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., is not running for re-election. But that may not give him any more freedom to do what he wants. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

With Speaker Paul D. Ryan retiring after this Congress ends in January, he seemingly has newfound freedom to either make a stronger push for conservative policy priorities or strike bipartisan grand bargains with Democrats.

In reality, the Wisconsin Republican has little room to do either — at least not until after November.

EPA Pesticide Approval Without Endangered Species Review in Farm Bill
Environmental groups describe provision as an ‘unprecedented attack’

A provision in the 2018 farm bill would allow the EPA to approve pesticides without reviews aimed at protecting endangered species. (David McNew/Getty Images file photo)

A provision in the 2018 farm bill would allow the EPA to approve pesticides without undertaking reviews now required to protect endangered species.

Environmental groups say the provision is an “unprecedented” attack that could have lasting ramifications for ecosystems across the nation.

Farm Bill Ties Food Stamps to Work, Adjusts Farm Aid
Democrats worry work mandate is designed to push people out of program

House Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, at podium, introduces the farm bill at a news conference on Thursday. Flanking him, from left, Reps. Neal Dunn, R-Fla., James R. Comer, R-Ky., Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., Roger Marshall, R-Kan., Ralph Abraham, R-La., Bob Gibbs, R-Ohio, and Rick W. Allen, R-Ga. (Ellyn Ferguson/CQ Roll Call)

The House Agriculture Committee released its 2018 farm bill Thursday with proposals to reshape the nation’s largest domestic food aid program, consolidate conservation efforts and tweak farm aid.

The bill arrives amid controversy over its focus on shifting funding within the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, into work and training programs.

Pelosi Urges Democrats to Oppose Farm Bill, Balanced Budget Amendment, Rescissions
Minority leader pens Dear Colleague letter on 'what challenges lie ahead'

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., is urging her colleagues to oppose the farm bill and a balanced budget amendment measure. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi welcomed her Democratic colleagues back from a two-week spring recess with a “Dear Colleague” letter urging them to oppose several upcoming pieces of legislation. 

Included in Pelosi’s list was the farm bill reauthorizing agriculture programs, which is typically a bipartisan measure. But Republicans this year have been pushing to add work requirements to food stamps, formally known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. 

Opinion: The Infrastructure Plan Is Like Our Roads. Both Are Falling Apart
Lately it seems that infrastructure is always the ‘next’ item on the agenda

With Speaker Paul D. Ryan backing a fragmented approach, the door could be closing on an infrastructure overhaul, Nellenbach and Varn write. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Congress is beginning to give up on the idea of a sweeping infrastructure bill, pointing to the looming midterm elections and the funding boosts that passed in the recent omnibus package. Even President Donald Trump seems to have accepted that one of his principal campaign proposals has stalled once again, admitting recently that infrastructure will “probably have to wait until after the election.”

Lately it seems that infrastructure is always the “next” item on the agenda — the one Congress will tackle as soon as it gets beyond the latest crisis. As our roads and water systems continue to deteriorate, it is now the infrastructure plan itself that needs immediate repair.

New Chinese Tariffs Prompt Farm-State Senator Rebuke of Trump on Trade
Ernst brought concerns directly to Trump on Wednesday

Iowa Sens. Joni Ernst and Charles E. Grassley were critical of President Donald Trump’s trade policy on Wednesday after the latest announcement of Chinese retaliation. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

China’s announced plans for roughly $50 billion in new tariffs on U.S. goods has escalated the criticism from farm-state lawmakers of President Donald Trump’s agenda.

Iowa Republican Sen. Joni Ernst said she talked with Trump himself Wednesday about concerns about effects on Hawkeye State producers.

Paul Ryan’s Broad Strokes on Poverty
Speaker reiterates favored outline on workforce development

Speaker Paul D. Ryan has been touting the Republican economic philosophy during a tour of Texas. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Capping a visit to North Texas, Speaker Paul D. Ryan on Tuesday returned to a favored topic — federal anti-poverty programs — during a visit to Catholic Charities Fort Worth. 

Coming off his appearance Monday before Southwest Airlines employees to tout the Republican economic philosophy, particularly tax cuts, Ryan offered a broad vision for workforce development policies rather than an idea of what Congress could actually move on this year.

Democrats Put Farm Bill Talks on Hold
Minority party says it can’t negotiate until it sees text and other info

House Agriculture ranking Democrat Collin C. Peterson says his party is done talking about the farm bill until the majority Republicans start sharing information. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

For those tracking the farm bill, the top question this week is whether the House Agriculture Committee chairman and ranking member can reopen talks that stalled last week, after Democrats balked at possible cuts to the food stamp program.

Rep. Collin C. Peterson, the top committee Democrat, said Thursday he would heed his colleagues’ request that he stop negotiations until Chairman K. Michael Conaway gives members the text of the proposed farm bill, along with Congressional Budget Office cost estimates and impact assessments.

Opinion: Putting the ‘N’ in SNAP Should Be a Farm Bill Priority
Program should be strengthened to promote nutrition among SNAP recipients

Among the recommendations of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s SNAP Task Force is continuing incentives for recipients to consume fresh fruits and vegetables (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call file photo)

As Congress begins its deliberations on this year’s farm bill, it’s time to pay more attention to the “N” in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.

Launched as a pilot program by President John F. Kennedy and expanded nationwide by President Richard Nixon, the food stamps program — now SNAP — has enjoyed bipartisan support over its nearly 60-year history. From its initial goals of supporting farm incomes and ensuring low-income families did not face hunger, it has evolved into an effective anti-poverty program. That evolution continues today with a focus on nutrition.

Organizing the Senate Can Sometimes Get Messy
No-fuss committee changes haven’t always been the norm

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer meets with Sens. Doug Jones of Alabama and Tina Smith of Minnesota in the Capitol on Jan. 3. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The Senate’s leaders reached a deal to adjust committee membership without much fanfare this month, but such comity has not always been a sure thing.

Last month’s election of Alabama Democrat Doug Jones that set the Republican majority at 51-49 meant that the two parties would need to make relatively straightforward changes, providing for the GOP to hold one-seat majorities on committees either by reducing the total number of Republicans where there was a surplus, or adding an extra Democrat.