House and Senate Agriculture Committee staff continue to state their intention to unveil a conference committee bill during the week of November 12th; however, little progress has been made on the unresolved issues that prevented an agreement before September 30th (food stamps, crop insurance, and some cotton provisions). Most experts believe the 2018 Farm Bill’s future depends on who takes or retains control of the House of Representatives after November 6, 2018.
Most staff think either party will want to “clear” the deck before 2019 but there are some vote scenarios that could let many portions of the current Farm Bill expire. The Congressional Research Service provides an in-depth analysis of the impact a Farm Bill expiration will have on rural counties and agriculture businesses (link).
Within the House’s version of the Farm Bill is Section 6202 (link to bill) “expanding access to credit for rural communities” that would update that definition of rural to 50,000 for purposes of accessing loan guarantee programs around water and broadband. There is no comparable section in the Senate’s version and Section 6202 is not guaranteed to survive when the House and Senate versions of the bill are reconciled. House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota) is objecting to the language out of concern that the smallest counties will lose out in a pool with larger counties. Representative Peterson’s opposition is a serious threat to Section 6202, but rural counties will fight for language that updates the definition of rural counties in the final version of the Farm Bill.