The U.S. House easily passed a compromise farm bill Wednesday, sending the massive legislative package that reauthorizes agriculture programs and food aid to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The legislation had already passed the Senate and is now headed to the president, who is expected to sign it despite losing changes to the food stamp program that he supported.
U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., said the measure is important because it provides funding for research at Washington State University and gives farmers a safety net in troubling economic times.
“It’s good news for our farmers,” McMorris Rodgers said.
The bill, costing $867 billion over 10 years, reauthorizes agriculture and conservation programs, funds trade programs, expands support for struggling dairy farmers and legalizes the cultivation of industrial hemp. The House vote was 369-47.
Congress traditionally enacts a comprehensive farm bill every five years, setting federal agricultural and food policy for another five-year period. While farm bills include safety net programs for farmers, nutrition programs – including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP – account for most of the spending.
The measure previously had stalled as Republicans sought to add work requirements for nearly 40 million low-income Americans to qualify for food stamps.
The previous version would have required all able-bodied adults ages 18 to 59 to work at least 20 hours a week or get training to qualify for food stamps under SNAP.
McMorris Rodgers said she supported the additional work requirements, but voted Wednesday to support the compromise version without them.
“I did support those provisions,” she said. “We’ll continue to work on them. But it was most important to provide the certainty that farm bill provides our farmers.”
Trump and conservatives had pushed to create the new work requirements, but the Senate rejected the idea.
McMorris Rodgers said the farm bill provided much of what she had hoped for following discussions with Eastern Washington farmers.
“The priorities were crop insurance, making sure that our farmers have that safety net when it’s not a good year, and the market access program,” she said. “We export a large, large portion of what we grow in Eastern Washington and opening markets is extremely important.”
Before her re-election in November, McMorris Rodgers invited Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to Spokane. On Aug. 9, she also hosted outgoing House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas.
At the time, Conaway said in Spokane that he had hoped to have the farm bill passed by Sept. 30. But the negotiations over the proposed changes to SNAP delayed the bill’s passage until Wednesday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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