Major U.S. Congressional Agriculture Actions in 2018
Grain 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 “Grain Glitch” but some critics believe it made the problem worse.
- In the Bipartisan Budget Act, Congress redefined cotton as an “other seed oil” which makes it eligible for crop supports created by the 2014 Farm Bill.
Status: Passed in February and March 2018
Congress 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 for votes on immigration.
- Democrats created a unified front against adding any stricter work provisions for SNAP.
Status: Signed into law 12/20/18
- 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.
- McConnell’s bill was included in the 2018 Farm Bill.
Status: Hemp was legalized with the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill
Sources: National Journal Research, 2018; congress.gov; Catherine Boudreau and Helena Bottemiller Evich, “Farm Bill compromise primed for passage,” 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.
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. – President Trump
Sources: National Journal Research, 2018; Chad P. Brown and Melina Kolb, “Trump’s Trade War Timeline: An Up-to-Date Guide,” PIEE, August 21, 2018; Chad P. Brown & Melinda Kolb, “Trump’s Trade. War Timeline: An Up-to-Date Guide,” 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 USCMA’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 administration’s commodity support program
- Incoming House Agriculture Committee Chair Colin Peterson (D-MN) has been critical of the Trump administration’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.
“I don’t agree with what [Trump is] doing as it relates to agriculture…I don’t see any scenario where agriculture is going to be better off than we were before all this started with China” — Rep. Colin Peterson (D-MN)
Sources: National Journal Research, 2018; Jeff Stein. “He’s an architect in Manhattan. He got $3,300 from Trump’s farm bailout.” 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 “Waters of the United States,” 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 “Camp Fire”
“We would have liked to see more progress on work requirements for SNAP recipients and forest management reforms” — Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue
Sources: National Journal Research, 2018; USDA; Politico Morning Agriculture; “The Trump administration against healthy eating,” The Economist, December 13, 2018.