Three weeks ago the federal Farm Bill appeared to be making progress, passing the U.S. Senate 66-27. All that was derailed last Thursday, when the U.S. House voted down their version of the Bill 234-195. It is unclear if the House will try to pass another version of the Bill, or if the old Farm Bill will be extended for an additional year or two. (Last year congress passed a one-year extension.) In the past, the 5-year Farm Bill has received bipartisan support and passed easily in both chambers of Congress.
The stakes are high. The Farm Bill is the largest source of federal conservation funding in the federal budget, helping farmers take steps to reduce runoff, prevent erosion, and protect and restore wildlife habitat.
The Farm Bill benefits the Great Lakes restoration efforts through conservation projects run by the National Resources Conservation Service. In the past, these conservation programs in the Great Lakes states have been awarded more than $500 million per year, contributing to the health of the Lakes. For more information about how the Farm Bill impacts the health of the Lakes, read our publication: “The Case for Federal Farm Bill Conservation Programs in the Great Lakes Region.”
The Senate’s version of the Bill would have cut $3.5 billion from the conservation programs that benefit our Great Lakes, and that’s in addition to cuts imposed by the sequester. The House version proposed even steeper cuts—and contained provisions that undercut agriculture conservation programs. However, last Thursday afternoon the House voted down their version of the Bill, preventing the reconciliation process that would have been required to merge the Senate and House versions of the Bill.