Farm Bill Clears Senate Agriculture Committee

With overwhelming bipartisan support from the committee, legislation to reauthorize SNAP advances to the Senate floor.

June 14, 2018

Yesterday, the Senate Agriculture Committee favorably reported the 2018 Farm Bill (S. 3042) cleared its committee with a 20–1 vote. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) was the only dissenting vote on the bill.

Every five years Congress must past a Farm Bill that sets agriculture, nutrition, conservation and forestry policy. The current farm bill is set to expire in September, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed to bring the 2018 Farm Bill to the Senate floor for a vote before the July 4 holiday.

Yesterday’s committee markup was the result of months of negotiations between Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), who unveiled their bipartisan version of the Farm Bill last Friday. Their bill reauthorizes the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), but the legislation only makes slight changes to SNAP.

Some of the changes that would affect SNAP retailers include:

  • Processing fees. The legislation would prohibit processing fees, interchange fees and routing fees from all EBT transactions. This prohibition would expire in 2022.
  • GAO study of EBT payments system. The legislation asks the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study of the current EBT payments system, participants and providers. The GAO must report its findings to the Secretary of Agriculture, who then has the authority to promulgate regulations based on the results.
  • Retailer incentives program. The legislation creates a retailer incentives program instructing the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create an approval process for retailers seeking to offer incentives for SNAP purchases of foods that are within the dietary guidelines.

During committee markup, Chairman Roberts offered a manager’s amendment comprised of 66 amendments, along with an en bloc amendment sponsored by Sen. Stabenow and himself. Outside of these amendments offered by the Chairman, there were no amendments offered that would have an impact on SNAP.

There was an amendment offered and then withdrawn by Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) that would affect the Renewable Fuel Standard. Her amendment would direct USDA to study how small refinery waivers granted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are affecting farm income, commodity prices and renewable fuel usage. Subsequently, the Secretary of Energy and the Administrator of the EPA would then have to use the study results in the process of making decisions regarding small refinery waivers. The amendment was co-sponsored by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Deb Fischer (R-NE), Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Tina Smith (D-MN).

While the full Senate is scheduled to consider the Farm Bill at the end of the month, the House of Representatives has until next Friday to reconsider their version of the bill. The legislation failed to pass on the floor last month as a result of an unrelated dispute on immigration legislation. However, House Republicans announced Tuesday evening that they have struck a deal to bring two immigration bills to the floor for a vote next week, which could clear the way for the Farm Bill to be reconsidered.

Stay tuned to the NACS Daily for more updates on the Farm Bill process.