Congress’ pat on the back

On Dec. 20, 2018, President Donald Tump signed into law the 2018 farm bill. Thank goodness this occurred just two days before a 35-day federal government shutdown, the second longest shutdown in history.

The massive bill covers everything from agriculture and nutrition to forestry and rural development is comprised of 12 titles, making it one whopper piece of legislation, totaling more than $500 billion over 10 years. Despite the bill’s hefty price tag, it did not add to the deficit.

The farm bill typically receives little fanfare in Congress and the news, which is a good thing. More attention to any sort of legislation means a more difficult road to being signed into law. You cannot please everyone. The path to passing a farm bill is probably one of the few instances when it is helpful that much of the population doesn’t understand agriculture.

On the one-year anniversary, Senate Agriculture Committee leaders issued a press release, giving themselves a pat on the back. You can count on Congress to beat its chest for doing its job. This time, it’s warranted.

Can you imagine how much worse off rural America would be right now had the farm bill not been in place? If Congress wouldn’t have gotten its act together in 2018, I can almost guarantee a farm bill would not have happened in 2019.

Chairman Pat Roberts said, “With low prices and trade uncertainty, farmers and ranchers needed this farm bill, and I’m pleased we could provide a level of certainty and predictability.”

Ranking Member Deborah Stabenow said, “From expanding markets for our farmers, to investing in our small towns and rural communities, to protecting the Great Lakes—Michigan really is on every page.”

Both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have held hearings throughout the year to hear from administration officials on the farm bill implementation process. All hearings can be re-watched online.

On the one-year anniversary, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released a title-by-title update of farm bill program implementation. USDA also released a couple progress reports in the spring and summer of 2019.

In its press release, USDA says it “will continue to work diligently to implement the remainder of the farm bill to ensure our nation’s farmers, ranchers, foresters and producers have long term certainty they need and are provided the best customer service possible under the leadership of Secretary Perdue.”

Shortly after the farm bill was signed into law last year, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts announced he will not seek re-election in 2020.

The Washington Post national political reporter Robert Costa said it best in a tweet, “Sen. Pat Roberts has announced that he will serve the remainder of his term but will not seek re-election in 2020. He’s a low-profile senator, but powerful. As Washington bickers over the president’s $5b request, recall that Roberts, as AG chair, just passed a $867b farm bill.”

And, that’s how you pass a bipartisan farm bill, folks.

Editor’s note: Seymour Klierly writes Washington Whispers for the Journal from inside the Beltway.