Dear Mr. Trovato,
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Farm Bill. I appreciate your comments and having the benefit of your views.
The Farm Bill forms the foundation of our country’s agriculture and food assistance policies. The programs that it contains are critical to supporting eastern Connecticut farmers and families. Since 1933, the Farm Bill has been updated and reauthorized in five-year increments to allow Congress to comprehensively address food and agricultural issues in the United States. The current Farm Bill, reauthorized in 2014, addressed conservation, nutrition, and energy programs, among other areas of importance.
Unfortunately, the 2018 draft Farm Bill released by House Agriculture Committee Republicans takes a major step backwards on nutrition policy and conservation supports. This bill passed out of the Agriculture Committee on a party-line vote in April and failed on a roll call vote of 198-213 on the floor on May 18, 2018. However, Republican leadership has made it clear that they plan to bring this bill back to the floor in late June.
One of the major reasons that I joined my colleagues in opposing this legislation is because it sought to tighten work requirements for SNAP recipients while also limiting eligibility for the program more broadly. Further, I was disappointed that this bill eliminated “broad-based eligibility,” which allows states like Connecticut –where food insecurity exists well above the federal poverty line –to enroll people in SNAP when their income is as high as twice the federal poverty level. Under this bill, broad-based eligibility will only be 30% higher than the poverty level.
In addition to gutting the nutrition assistance program, the 2018 House Farm Bill seeks to cut conservation programs by nearly $800 million over the next decade. To do this, the bill would consolidate the Conservation Stewardship Program into other conservation programs, weakening its ability to encourage sustainable farming. In its current form, the Conservation Stewardship program incentivizes farmers to protect soil and water resources by entering into cost-sharing agreements for implementing best practices—for example: planting cover crops to keep fertilizer in place and buffer strips to prevent erosion.
The Farm Bill is generally a very bipartisan bill and includes supports for farmers across the country. On top of nutrition and conservation cuts, this bill removes all mandatory funding for the Rural Energy for America Program—a $500 million cut over 10 years. It also eliminates the National Organic Certificate Cost Share Program, which receives a critical $11.5 million annually that goes directly to farmers to help them attain their annual organics certification.
Like you, I believe that we need a Farm Bill that supports our local families and farmers in eastern Connecticut. I voted against this bill, and was glad it did not pass when it was recently considered. However, Speaker Ryan requested that the bill receive a vote on a future date, and I am closely monitoring legislative developments that would bring this bill back to the floor for a second vote. Please be assured that I will keep your views in mind as Congress considers this year's Farm Bill moving forward.
Again, thank you for sharing your views on this issue with me. Should you have any additional comments or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me in the future. For more information on my work in Congress, please visit my website at courtney.house.gov and sign up for my e-newsletter at courtney.house.gov/forms/emailsignup. You can also connect with me at facebook.com/joecourtney or receive updates from twitter.com/repjoecourtney.