The House of Representatives passed a scaled-back version of the farm bill last week on a narrow, largely party-line vote of 216 to 208. This legislation does not include a nutrition title, which is the portion of the farm bill that traditionally addresses food stamps and other assistance programs. Other agricultural titles, however, are unchanged from the version of the bill that failed to pass the House last month.
The decision to drop nutrition programs from the House farm bill is a dramatic departure from the legislative approach that has been in place since the 1960s, and Congress still has many obstacles to overcome if it is going to pass a final farm bill by the end of the current fiscal year (Sept. 30).
Thad Lively, U.S. Meat Export Federation (USMEF) senior vice president for trade access, discusses key trade provisions that are included in the legislation, and which depend on Congress reaching a consensus on a final farm bill before the fiscal year ends:
Both the Senate and House versions of the farm bill would continue the current levels of funding for the USDA Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) program. This reflects a strong level of bipartisan Congressional support for programs that help bolster U.S. agricultural exports. Both versions of the bill would also create a new USDA under secretary for trade.
In addition, the House version of the bill includes placeholder language regarding country-of-origin labeling (COOL) for meat products. This provision was inserted in order to create a legislative option for resolving the dispute with Canada and Mexico over U.S. statutory requirements for COOL.