CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 2, AGRICULTURE AND NUTRITION ACT OF 2018; Congressional Record Vol. 164, No. 196
(House of Representatives - December 12, 2018)

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   CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 2, AGRICULTURE AND NUTRITION ACT OF 2018


                             General Leave

  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members 
have 5 legislative days to revise and extend their remarks and include 
extraneous material on the conference report to accompany H.R. 2.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the 
gentleman from Texas?
  There was no objection.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, pursuant to House Resolution 1176, I call 
up the conference report on the bill (H.R. 2) to provide for the reform 
and continuation of agricultural and other programs of the Department 
of Agriculture through fiscal year 2023, and for other purpose, and ask 
for its immediate consideration.
  The Clerk read the title of the bill.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to House Resolution 1176, the 
conference report is considered read.
  (For conference report and statement, see proceedings of the House of 
December 10, 2018, Book II at page H9823.)
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Texas (Mr. Conaway) and 
the gentleman from Minnesota (Mr. Peterson) each will control 30 
minutes.
  The Chair recognizes the gentleman from Texas.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong support of the conference report 
to H.R. 2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018.
  It is fitting that the House today consider that farm bill because, 
28 years ago, another proud Texan, President George H.W. Bush, signed 
into law the 1990 farm bill.
  For the first time since 1990, Congress is poised to pass a new farm 
bill in the same year that the legislation was first introduced.
  In many ways, the 1990 farm bill laid the groundwork for today's U.S. 
farm policy. The U.S. farm policy is no longer the old command and 
control policies of the New Deal, but, rather, a market-oriented, risk 
management approach that helps America's farmers and ranchers survive 
natural disasters and the predatory trade practices of foreign 
countries like China.
  Our Nation's farmers and ranchers are the very best in the world, but 
they cannot compete alone against a sea of high and rising foreign 
subsidies, tariffs, and nontariff trade barriers, nor can they survive 
alone in the face of record droughts, hurricanes, wildfires, and other 
natural disasters. That is why we have a farm bill.
  Mr. Speaker, not since the early 2000s has a farm bill been more 
desperately needed than it is today. Our farmers and ranchers are going 
through a very difficult recession right now. Net farm income is down 
50 percent from where it stood just 5 years ago, the largest drop since 
the Great Depression. And farm bankruptcies are more up by more than 30 
percent.
  We have all seen the devastation of recent wildfires and hurricanes. 
Less noticed, but no less destructive, is the severe drought that has 
gripped many parts of the country, perhaps none more so than the one I 
get to represent.
  Even less noticed is the rampant cheating going on in the global 
trade that hurts our farmers and ranchers every single day. China 
recently oversubsidized just three crops by more than $100 billion in a 
single year.

[[Page H10143]]

  Put in perspective, China spent more on excess illegal subsidies in a 
year than the entire U.S. safety net covering all commodities will cost 
in roughly two farm bills. That is why passage of this farm bill is so 
important.
  The farm bill is never easy to pass. The needs of our farmers and 
ranchers are greater than they have ever been in a long time, but we 
have operated under a flat budget.
  For my colleagues who are concerned about the deficit spending, 
please note that this farm bill is budget neutral. This follows on the 
heels of the 2014 farm bill that has come in significantly under budget 
also.
  Mr. Speaker, here are some specifics of the 2018 farm bill:
  First, the farm bill honors the request of nearly every farmer and 
rancher that we do no harm to Federal crop insurance.
  Second, we strengthen the farm bill safety net for all farmers and 
ranchers. Believe it or not, there was actually pressure from some in 
the other Chamber to cut the farm safety net at a time when the whole 
point of a farm bill is to help our farm and ranch families.
  Third, we strengthened key conservation initiatives, especially the 
Environmental Quality Incentives Program. These highly successful 
conservation initiatives serve as a prime example of how voluntary, 
incentive-based conservation beats burdensome, arbitrary, and costly 
Washington regulations every single time.

  Fourth, we honored the requests of farmers and ranchers to fully fund 
our trade promotion initiatives, which could not be more important than 
they are right now. This includes fully funding the Market Access 
Program and the Foreign Market Development Program.
  We also succeeded in maintaining the vital link between America's 
farmers and ranchers and U.S. food aid by preserving the in-kind food 
assistance to our neighbors in need from around the world.
  Fifth, we make some extremely important investments elsewhere in this 
farm bill: We increase individual Farm Service Agency loan limits, 
which have not been updated in 16 years; we increase agriculture 
research funding at a time when we are dangerously lagging behind 
China.
  We also provide Secretary Perdue with the tools he requested to 
effectively combat the opioid epidemic and also to expand high-quality 
broadband service in all of rural America.
  We increase investment in new crop uses and in specialty crops, 
including fruits and vegetables, and we increase investments in the 
Nation's livestock sector by strengthening our Nation's animal disease 
prevention and management efforts, including the stockpiling of foot-
and-mouth disease vaccine.
  Finally, it is fair to say that there has been philosophical 
differences in this conference committee. Achieving commonsense SNAP 
reforms, preventing wildfires, and providing regulatory relief are just 
three of the examples.
  Despite this, we made commonsense reforms and improved the program 
integrity and work requirements under SNAP, including involving 
Governors in the work requirement waivers so that there is political 
accountability and by reducing State allowances for able-bodied adults 
without dependents.
  We required States to adopt case management practices to help move 
SNAP beneficiaries from welfare to work, and we eliminate $480 million 
in bonuses we pay to States for simply doing their jobs. These and 
other reforms will build on the success we have had in moving more than 
9 million people off of SNAP rolls and into the workforce over the past 
5 years.
  The farm bill will also reduce the forest fuel loads to reduce the 
incidence and intensity of wildfires. This is achieved by expanding the 
insect and disease categorical exclusion to remove hazardous fuel loads 
and empowering State, local, and Tribal authorities to remove timber.
  Nobody deserves more credit for working to improve our Nation's 
forest management than my friend Bruce Westerman from Arkansas, whom I 
am proud to have as a signatory on this conference report.
  These reforms are important, and they are only a start in what we 
need to be done. Ultimately, we had to make a decision between making 
as many inroads on reform in these areas as we could or allow farmers 
and ranchers to be held hostage. Faced with that choice, I chose the 
route of getting this farm bill done.
  We made important inroads wherever we could on these reforms. We 
worked to provide the strongest safety net possible for our Nation's 
farmers and ranchers.
  In closing, I thank Ranking Member Peterson and our counterparts in 
the other Chamber for bringing this conference report to final 
consideration. I extend my sincere gratitude to President Trump and 
Secretary Perdue for their unwavering support of our farmers and 
ranchers, and I greatly appreciate the support and hard work of House 
leadership and members of my Conference, especially my fellow 
conferees, for all they have done to stand by rural America and those 
families who feed and clothe us.
  For the sake of rural America and our struggling farmers and 
ranchers, I urge my colleagues to support this farm bill so the 
President can sign this measure into law.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the conference report on H.R. 
2, the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018. The conference report we 
are considering today would reauthorize farm bill programs for 5 years.
  The 2014 farm bill expired on September 30, and while the road to get 
here has had a few bumps along the way, I am glad that we are finally 
able to reach an agreement, and now it is time to get this done.
  During a time when rural America is facing a downturn in the farm 
economy and a trade war that is taking a toll on crop, livestock, and 
dairy producers from coast to coast, this bill will provide needed 
certainty to farmers and ranchers.
  The bill continues a variety of commodity, conservation, trade, 
nutrition, credit, rural development, research, energy, and specialty 
crop programs. It also provides permanent mandatory funding for several 
of the programs that first got mandatory funding in the 2008 farm bill 
when I was last chairman. These include the Local Food and Farmers 
Market Promotion Program, the Value-Added Producer Grant Program, the 
BFRDP, Organic Research, and the Section 2501 Outreach Program.
  One of the most important pieces in this bill, however, is the 
improvement that it makes for our dairy farmers. The economic downturn 
in farm country has hit the dairy industry probably the hardest of all, 
and in my home State of Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin, an average 
of two dairies are going out of business every day. The provisions in 
this bill will provide expanded, affordable coverage options and more 
flexibility for dairy farmers, and I am proud to put my name on this 
program.
  We are also providing $300 million in mandatory funding for animal 
disease programs at a time when our U.S. livestock industry is facing a 
continued danger from unchecked threats from different areas. That 
money will go to increasing our ability to prevent and respond to 
animal pests and diseases that harm our animals and threaten the 
viability of our livestock operations.
  There are folks who would have liked to have seen different 
directions taken on several issues in this bill, but this is a 
conference report where the House and Senate figure out where the 
common ground is.
  I am very appreciative of the hard work of the majority and its 
staff, as well as my staff under the direction of Anne Simmons and Troy 
Phillips. My staff put their whole selves into this bill, and I want to 
thank and commend them: Lisa Shelton, Keith Jones, Prescott Martin, 
Katie Zenk, Patrick Delaney, and special thanks to my former staffers 
who worked on the bill, Mary Knigge, Liz Friedlander, and Evan 
Jurkovich, and to Clark Ogilvie, who missed the farm bill so much that 
he came to the committee to help us finish it.
  Thank you also to Patti Ross in the leader's office and Tom Mahr in 
the whip's office for their help, and all the folks at USDA and CBO for 
their hard work in getting us to this point; also,

[[Page H10144]]

the House and Senate legislative counsels who helped us put this bill 
together.
  So I think we have a good bill, a good compromise. I would encourage 
my colleagues to support this effort, and I look forward to continuing 
the discussion on many of these issues into the next Congress.
  Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
Oklahoma (Mr. Lucas), the former chairman of the committee and current 
chairman of the Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry.
  Mr. LUCAS. Mr. Speaker, I thank our ranking member and our chairman. 
When you consider what it takes to pass a farm bill, when you consider 
how difficult the challenges are, think of the last three in total, 
Chairman Peterson had to overcome two Presidential vetoes to get the 
bill on the books, and I supported him.
  In the 2014 farm bill, it took my friends here and me 2\1/2\ years to 
get a farm bill on the books. And now, Chairman Conaway, he shouldn't 
have had to go through some of the challenges that Collin and I went 
through, but he did it, and he did it for the best interests of 
America.
  But what is a farm bill all about? Set the nuances of various 
policies aside, it is to make sure that we have the safety net to 
enable us, in this country, to raise the food and fiber we need at an 
affordable, safe, and cost-effective rate to meet our needs and the 
world's needs.

                              {time}  1500

  And what is the other part of the farm bill? It is making sure our 
fellow citizens who have difficulty in overcoming their challenges have 
access to enough of those calories.
  Plain and simple, that is what farm bills have been about since 1933, 
making sure we all eat cheap, well, and safe.
  But they have gotten harder and harder because the tendency of this 
body is for some folks on one side of the room to press for a 
particular perspective, and other folks on the other side of the room 
to press for the diametrically opposite perspective.
  But ultimately, on the Agriculture Committee, under the leadership of 
these fine gentlemen and their wonderful staffs and all of our 
colleagues on the committee, we still do the right thing. We do policy 
every 5 years that works. We do policy that meets the needs of our 
fellow citizens and, for that matter, helps make sure the world has 
enough to eat.
  Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Ranking Member. Let's pass 
this bill with the overwhelming intensity it deserves, because that is 
what our neighbors back home deserve.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
Georgia (Mr.  David Scott), one of our subcommittee ranking members.
  Mr. DAVID SCOTT of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, this is a great farm bill. 
There is so much in it, so many great things. But in this farm bill is 
perhaps the absolute best example of bipartisanship at its best, to 
have Democrats and Republicans working together to give $80 million to 
African American, 1890s land grant colleges and universities.
  I just want to say a big thank you. I thank our Ranking Member 
Peterson. And I thank Mike Conaway, who started with me on this 
journey. God bless you, Mike. Thank you so much for your help.
  I thank our friends over on the Senate side. I thank Senator David 
Perdue, who took the reins over there and helped put the money back in. 
I also thank Senator Roberts, the chairman of the Senate committee.
  I thank my staffer, Ashley Smith, my legislative director who worked 
night and day with me on this bill.
  And I thank God Almighty. Mr. Speaker, God had His hand in this, to 
pull Democrats and Republicans together, to give $80 million to badly 
needed African American land grant colleges and universities. Only God 
could pull this together, and we thank God for this blessing and for 
touching the hearts and the souls and the spirits of all of my 
colleagues who will vote for this historic bill.
  I thank, also, the staff of the Senate Agriculture Committee, as well 
as the House Agriculture Committee. Thank you all for the work that you 
all did in this bill. I thank you for all the people in America who are 
grateful for this, but especially the African American community thanks 
you for opening up these opportunities for their light to shine as 
well.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from 
Georgia (Mr. Austin Scott).
  Mr. AUSTIN SCOTT of Georgia. Mr. Speaker, first, I want to thank 
Chairman Conaway and Ranking Member Peterson for their leadership 
during this process.
  I rise today to urge my colleagues to support the conference report 
to the 2018 farm bill to provide the first major reforms of our 
Nation's agriculture policy in nearly 5 years.
  For the last several years, Members of both sides of the aisle have 
worked to make sure that our Nation's primary agricultural policy works 
for American producers.
  This year, I was honored to, once again, be chosen to serve on the 
farm bill conference committee to fight for the good people of middle 
and south Georgia who dedicate their lives to agriculture. I am 
confident that this bill delivers the reforms that our farmers and 
industry stakeholders desperately need to keep our producers in rural 
communities growing and innovating for the 21st century.
  This bill strengthens the farm safety net and provides certainty and 
flexibility that our producers need. It also ensures that our farmers 
can provide the food, nutrition, and fiber, not only for America, but 
the rest of the world.
  In this legislation, we have laid the groundwork for expanding 
quality broadband access to rural America by giving the USDA the tools 
and resources to bridge the digital divide that is leaving millions of 
rural Americans behind and hindering our communities from thriving.
  I am very glad that two amendments that I offered were included in 
the final agreement, which will bring modernization and accountability 
to broadband services and spur broadband infrastructure investment in 
rural America. Bridging the digital divide is something I have been 
fighting for, for years now, and I look forward to seeing the growth in 
network service and infrastructure development through the provisions 
of this bill.
  In this conference report, we also found some common ground to make 
improvements to SNAP. I strongly urge my colleagues to support this 
conference report.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from 
Ohio (Ms. Fudge), one of our subcommittee ranking members.
  Ms. FUDGE. Mr. Speaker, let me begin by thanking my good friend and 
the ranking member, Collin Peterson, as well as my fellow conferees and 
the staff for their leadership in negotiating this conference report.
  The farm bill conference report is a good bill. It is not a perfect 
bill, but certainly worthy of our support. I am pleased Members on both 
sides of the aisle and across the Chamber were able to reach consensus 
on how to show the American people that Congress can work together.
  This agreement protects SNAP by rejecting proposals in the House farm 
bill that would have severely weakened the program and taken food 
assistance away from nearly 2 million people.
  This agreement increases access to healthy foods in underserved 
communities and takes steps to tackle food waste, which we know is a 
major problem.
  This agreement builds new opportunities to improve soil health and 
water quality in the Great Lakes.
  This agreement provides beginning and minority farmers and ranchers 
additional tools and resources needed to own and operate successful 
businesses.
  This agreement authorizes $350 million per year for rural broadband 
coverage.
  This agreement expands investment in low-income, urban, and rural 
communities.
  Finally, this agreement provides certainty and sound agricultural 
policies for America's producers and consumers. I encourage my 
colleagues to join me and vote ``yes'' on the final conference report.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from 
Kentucky (Mr. Comer).

[[Page H10145]]

  

  Mr. COMER. Mr. Speaker, it has been a long road of debate to reach an 
agreement on the 2018 farm bill. This bill benefits all of rural 
America, our farmers, producers, and consumers. The agreement we have 
reached on this year's bill includes many important provisions that 
will help farm country during tough economic times, fully protecting 
crop insurance and providing certainty to farmers.
  I am particularly glad to see industrial hemp de-scheduled from the 
controlled substances list, a key provision I worked with Leader 
McConnell on to ensure unnecessary government restrictions are lifted 
from this valuable agricultural commodity.
  I thank Leader McConnell for his collaboration and attention to 
legalizing industrial hemp, and I appreciate all of my colleagues who 
supported this issue and helped bring it to the table.
  I was proud to represent the interests of Kentucky farmers during 
this process, and I look forward to a new year of growth and prosperity 
for farmers and producers across rural America.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
California (Mr. Costa), another one of our subcommittee ranking 
members.
  Mr. COSTA. Mr. Speaker, I thank my good friend, Mr. Peterson, for 
yielding the time, and I thank him for his work, along with Chairman 
Conaway. And I thank the committee staffs on both sides who have worked 
so hard and diligently over the last year.
  Mr. Speaker, as a member of the farm conference committee, I am proud 
to support this bipartisan farm bill.
  As a third generation farmer, I have the honor and the privilege of 
representing one of the largest and most diverse agricultural regions 
in the country and in the world. California grows about half of our 
Nation's fruits and vegetables, the largest ag State in the Nation. We 
are number one in dairy producing, number one in citrus production, 
grapes and wine products. We are also the largest producer of tree nuts 
in the world. With over 300 crops, the list goes on and on and on.
  We are truly blessed in California, so this agricultural legislation 
is so important.
  The dairy title, the changes made in it are very helpful. With 
increased research funding, risk management tools like crop insurance, 
and trade promotion programs, this bill is not only good for the San 
Joaquin Valley that I represent in California, but the entire Nation.
  So we must understand that the conservation programs are also an 
improvement to help with groundwater sustainability and air quality, 
which are critical in California. The forest management improvements 
will make a difference in Western States like California, where we have 
had horrific and devastating forest fires.
  The vital SNAP benefits are maintained, and voluntary employment and 
training programs that I fought for are strengthened. The 10 pilot 
projects in the 10 States, I find, will provide better ways for us to 
get people on their feet who are in need.
  Finally, Mr. Speaker, I support this farm bill, and I urge my 
colleagues to do the same. It is a good work product. It is good on 
behalf of American agriculture and all of the interests that put, every 
day, America's food on America's dinner table.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from 
Nebraska (Mr. Smith), a former member of the Agriculture Committee.
  Mr. SMITH of Nebraska. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my strong 
support for this farm bill conference report. Given the ongoing 
challenges in the agriculture economy, it is very important our 
producers have policy certainty as they make their spring planting 
decisions.
  I held a series of listening sessions around Nebraska's Third 
District, our Nation's number one producing district for agriculture, 
last year to hear producers' thoughts about the farm bill. The number 
one item on producers' minds was the continuation of strong crop 
insurance. This bill accomplishes this objective.
  The bill also recognizes the challenges and threats facing our 
livestock producers by creating a disease prevention program and 
vaccine bank to help contain the potential future outbreak of disease 
within the livestock industry across our country.
  This bill, and continued positive progress on trade, will go a long 
way toward increasing producers' peace of mind. I encourage my 
colleagues to join me in supporting this important piece of 
legislation, and I appreciate the support of the administration in 
bringing this legislation to a successful conclusion.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
Oregon (Mr. Blumenauer).
  Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the gentleman's courtesy in 
permitting me to speak on the bill. I commend Mr. Peterson, in 
particular, for guiding this important piece of legislation that 
actually includes many provisions that I have been working with for 
over 12 years.
  He has been successful in protecting key Democratic priorities, 
especially nutrition, and avoiding damaging, poison-pill provisions. 
Near and dear to my heart are the reforms for hemp.
  But, I am concerned that it does not adequately address the growing 
crisis in American agriculture. I spent 3 years going around Oregon 
talking to people, putting together our little ``Fight for Food'' 
booklet and legislation.
  We are not dealing with the chemical welfare inspired by Monsanto/
Bayer. We have the Trump tariffs and climate devastation that is 
getting more serious by the month. We have a crop insurance program 
that is not just wasteful, but fails most farmers and ranchers that I 
represent and, indeed, in most States.
  While I appreciate the legislative accomplishment that are 
represented here, I look forward to starting the next Congress with 
then-Chairman Peterson to see if we can build on this foundation to 
narrow differences, broaden areas of agreement, do better for our 
farmers and ranchers, better for the environment, better for taxpayers 
and everyone who eats.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1\1/2\ minutes to the gentleman 
from California (Mr. LaMalfa).
  Mr. LaMALFA. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the conference 
report to H.R. 2, but also strong commendation toward our chairman, Mr. 
Conaway, for having the many, many hearings about all aspects of the 
farm bill and the condition of the ag economy in this country.

                              {time}  1515

  This does represent a strong compromise response to the needs of 
rural America, where stability is needed; certainty to the farmers and 
ranchers weathering a 50 percent drop in farm income in recent years. A 
positive step for rural America and its ag economy where stability, 
again, is greatly needed.
  Much of these resources are to remote, rural towns to improve 
broadband connectivity, which is critical for telehealth and further 
rural development.
  It acknowledges the challenges faced by many California farmers, 
including prioritizing mechanization research to help address the 
continued ag labor shortage.
  It maintains an accessible food supply for families in need, 
especially in rural, poor districts like mine, while also bringing an 
increment of accountability to the food stamp SNAP program.
  It strengthens our rural development title to boost jobs in rural 
America, such as water conservation improvements and incentives as 
well.
  I wish we could have done more on forestry. The town of Paradise and 
the surrounding area that suffered so much is a prime example of why we 
need to have better forest management in that State, in this whole 
country, but I think that continuing to have these conversations is 
extremely important.
  So with the worst fires in State history, I am really, really hoping 
for that improvement.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore (Mr. Bost). The time of the gentleman has 
expired.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield an additional 30 seconds to the 
gentleman.
  Mr. LaMALFA. Mr. Speaker, I commend Chairman Conaway for fighting for 
policies that support American agriculture.
  We are in tough times right now, with 5 years of lower incomes. And 
the consistency and stability that farmers

[[Page H10146]]

need, all Americans need in the rural economy, this farm bill will make 
a significant impact in helping on that.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, may I inquire how much time I have 
remaining?
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Minnesota has 19\1/2\ 
minutes remaining. The gentleman from Texas has 16\1/2\ minutes 
remaining.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1\1/2\ minutes to the gentlewoman 
from Delaware (Ms. Blunt Rochester), a member of the committee.
  Ms. BLUNT ROCHESTER. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, friend, and 
ranking member, Collin Peterson, for his wisdom and steadfast 
leadership through the farm bill reauthorization process, Chairman 
Conaway, and to all of the staff, who worked tirelessly.
  Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the 2018 farm bill and to 
commend my colleagues on the farm bill conference committee for a truly 
bipartisan and bicameral product. I stand confident that the bill will 
move Delaware and our Nation forward.
  It gives Delaware poultry growers the vital conservation resources 
they need when they need them. It shores up an already strong crop 
insurance program that protects our farmers against catastrophic loss. 
It provides additional sustainable resources for 1890 land-grant 
institutions, ensuring schools like Delaware State University continue 
their crucially important research while preparing the next generation 
in the ag economy.
  And it also ensures nutrition benefits are maintained and protected 
for our children, seniors, individuals with disabilities, and families 
who rely on the social safety net to navigate difficult times.
  All of these accomplishments were made possible by cooperation and 
compromise, which drew me to the Agriculture Committee in the first 
place.
  We came together, we got something done, and that is what the 
American people want to see. This is a farm bill we can all be proud 
of, and I ask my colleagues to support it.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from 
Georgia (Mr. Allen).
  Mr. ALLEN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of the conference 
report to H.R. 2, the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018.
  Facing a nearly 50 percent decline in net farm income over the past 5 
years, our Nation's farmers and ranchers have had their backs against 
the wall for far too long.
  Today, we have an opportunity to right that ship, to secure a 
brighter future for our producers, rural communities, and American 
consumers.
  As a member of the farm bill conference committee, I am confident 
that the agreement we have reached will strengthen the farm safety net 
and provide a sense of certainty and flexibility for those who feed and 
clothe our Nation.
  Mr. Speaker, we have been working on this legislation since I came to 
Congress, and I would like to thank Chairman Conaway and the entire 
House Agriculture Committee for their work.
  Mr. Speaker, I encourage all my colleagues to join me in supporting 
H.R. 2, to reinvigorate rural America.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from 
North Carolina (Ms. Adams), a member of the committee.
  Ms. ADAMS. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank Ranking Member Peterson for 
yielding, also Chairman Conaway for all of his support.
  I am proud today to speak on behalf of the 2018 farm bill. This bill 
is a strong, bipartisan piece of legislation. It works for families, 
for farmers, and for all communities.
  The farm bill now avoids disastrous cuts to SNAP, a program which 
helps put food on the table for 44,000 people in Mecklenburg County 
alone, many of whom are children.
  Additionally, the bill now avoids the mean-hearted, unreasonable work 
requirements that had been in the previous version of the House farm 
bill.
  As founder and cochair of the bipartisan HBCU Caucus, I am 
particularly proud to have helped secure key resources for 1890 land-
grant universities in this bill. The farm bill authorizes $50 million 
to create three centers of excellence at 1890s and it ensures equity 
between land grants by removing provisions that strip away unspent 
extension funds for 1890 schools, and mandating a report that outlines 
research and extension funds for all land-grant institutions. This is a 
major legislative win for our land-grant HBCUs.

  These are the reasons why I founded the HBCU Caucus, to bring 
together a coalition of Republicans and Democrats to fight together for 
greater funding and equity for all of our schools.
  Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all of my colleagues on the conference 
committee, and I urge my colleagues to support this bipartisan bill 
later today.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from 
Puerto Rico (Miss Gonzalez-Colon).
  Miss GONZALEZ-COLON of Puerto Rico. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the 
chairman for allowing me, even when I am opposed to one of the 
provisions, to speak about it.
  As you may know, this bill has a lot of good things and good 
provisions for all the States and for the territories as well, but 
there is one provision that we are not allowed to even discuss in a 
public hearing, and that is the prohibition, or ban, to cockfights in 
the territories.
  The current farm bill allowed territories to have and regulate that 
industry. In the case of Puerto Rico, that represents more than $18 
million in revenues and taxes. We are on the brink of a lot of 
financial situations, and now this regulation will put another burden 
on the people of the island.
  So I am against that prohibition, mostly because the people of Puerto 
Rico have regulated the industry of cockfighting since 1933. So this is 
something that is not only affecting Puerto Rico, but the rest of the 
territories, as we have been facing this kind of industry and sport.
  We don't have the votes in the Senate. We can't vote on the floor of 
the House. So our people are not fiscally represented, and as well 
Congress is taking an action that would put another burden on our 
economy.
  Mr. Speaker, I reiterate my opposition, and the people of Puerto 
Rico, against that provision, but in favor of the rest of the bill.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
California (Mr. Panetta), a member of the committee.
  Mr. PANETTA. Mr. Speaker, I thank Chairman Conaway and Ranking Member 
Peterson for their leadership during my time on the Agriculture 
Committee, during our time putting this farm bill together.
  As a proud member of the Agriculture Committee, as a proud member who 
represents the salad bowl of the world, I am very proud to support H.R. 
2, this farm bill, in 2018.
  In my district on the central coast of California, this farm bill 
will benefit our specialty crop industry by investing in mechanization 
technology and expanding research opportunities.
  It will help our organics industry with the certification process and 
research by incorporating the OREI Act.
  This bill invests in our future farmers, our young ranchers, and 
veterans getting into agriculture.
  It doesn't make any changes to SNAP without any evidence supporting 
such changes for the people who need food the most.
  Mr. Speaker, I am at the end of my first term in Congress, and I can 
tell you this is the best job I have ever had, mainly because of the 
Members of Congress I work with, mainly because of the Democrats and 
Republicans I have worked with on this Agriculture Committee, including 
its excellent staff.
  So despite the fact that there were differences over this farm bill 
at the beginning, and even though we are on the verge of a possible 
shutdown, what gives me confidence in this job, what gives me 
confidence in this body is this final version of this farm bill.
  This is a bill that, although it started as a partisan product, it 
ended as a bipartisan bill. It is a bill that is not based on ideology 
and emotion; it is based on evidence. This is a bill that is not based 
on party politics; it is based on people, not just people in 
agriculture, but all of the people of this Nation.
  That is why we all should be proud to support the Agriculture 
Improvement Act of 2018 and vote ``yes'' on the final conference 
report.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from New 
York (Mr. Faso).

[[Page H10147]]

  

  Mr. FASO. Mr. Speaker, I thank the chairman for his leadership and I 
thank the ranking member for his leadership on this legislation.
  The conference report provides much needed resources that will help 
farmers cope with a 5-year, 50 percent collapse in the farm economy, 
the largest such drop since the Great Depression.
  During this process, we have acted in a bipartisan fashion to fix 
broken government programs that have not worked as intended and left 
farmers with nowhere to turn.
  In upstate New York, perhaps none are hurting more than our local 
dairy farmers. New York is the third largest dairy State, and our 
farmers are hurting. The current dairy programs do not work, and 
improvements to the farm bill combined with those in the bipartisan 
Budget Act from earlier this year will help our farmers weather the 
storm.
  We have made the dairy safety net more flexible by increasing 
coverage options, more affordable by reducing premiums, and more 
enticing for participation by bringing more incentives for those 
farmers to participate.
  We have also worked to protect the SNAP program and laid the 
groundwork for future Congresses to make additional changes. By 
incentivizing work through better local workforce consultation and 
reducing the number of waivers that States can bring, we can bring more 
recipients into the workforce during a time of record low unemployment.
  Additionally, changes like the National Accuracy Clearing House and 
minimum standards for participant tracking will help enhance program 
integrity and ensure that benefits are available to those that need 
them most.

  Mr. Chairman, I urge adoption of the farm bill. Upstate New York and 
our farmers have waited long enough. I am proud to support this 
legislation.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from 
Pennsylvania (Mr. Evans), a member of the committee.
  Mr. EVANS. Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank both chairmen for their 
leadership in this opportunity of bringing us all together.
  I chose to be a member of the Agriculture Committee because this 
committee has jurisdiction over some of the most critical issues facing 
our community, that is food and nutrition.
  Even back in Pennsylvania, one issue that has been central to my work 
is ensuring that people in every neighborhood in Philadelphia, between 
west Philadelphia and north Philadelphia, south Philadelphia, had 
access to safe, healthy, and reasonably priced food.
  In Philadelphia, 20 percent of our population is food insecure, 
meaning one in five Philadelphians don't know where their next meal 
will come from.
  I am pleased to see that this bill maintains SNAP and does not weigh 
down poor and hungry Pennsylvanians with onerous work rules.
  But let's be clear: this is just a beginning. No child should go to 
bed hungry. No parent should have to make the choice between putting 
food on the table or keeping the lights on.
  In times of peace and in times of war, our soldiers must always have 
a food source in order to provide the necessary safety and security our 
democracies depend on for survival.
  As a member of the Agriculture Committee, I had the opportunity to 
meet with members of the ag community at all levels, from farmers to 
consumers. I have come to better understand the needs of Pennsylvania's 
hardworking farmers and others in the broad agriculture community 
through events such as the Pennsylvania Farm Show and the Ag Progress 
Days.
  And over time, through meetings with advocates, the Pennsylvania Farm 
Bureau, The Food Trust, the National Young Farmers Coalition, 
Philabundance, Central Pennsylvania Food Bank, and National Farmers 
Union, I am happy to say that this bill does a lot of work for them.
  In addition to SNAP, this bill addresses hunger by increasing funding 
for everyone.
  This bill also provides greater flexibility in coverage and tools for 
Pennsylvania dairy farmers, investing in rural infrastructure, supports 
research of 1890 land-grant universities, and maintains fundamental 
conservation programs.
  Food unites us. Food is medicine. Food is foreign policy. And I say 
this: this bill is a starting point. We have to work together, and I 
look forward to working on this bill to make it stronger.
  Mr. Speaker, I thank both chairmen and I thank the staff for all 
their collective work together.
  Yes, we should vote a resounding ``yes.''
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

                              {time}  1530

  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I yield 1 minute to the gentlewoman from 
Texas (Ms. Jackson Lee).
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, last year, in Hurricane Harvey, many in 
my community became food insecure. I cannot tell you how important 
maintaining the current SNAP benefits are.
  I thank the chairman from Texas and my good friend, to-be chairman 
from Minnesota, for their coming together.
  The importance of funding going to my land grant colleges is enormous 
in training new farmers.
  The work that is being added--as a member of the Homeland Security 
Committee--on adding broadband in the rural communities is something 
that is so dearly needed and has been promised for many, many years.
  The fact that we are expanding access to FSA farm loans for veterans, 
but, more importantly, for beginning farmers, creates a new pathway for 
those who are providing for us as the breadbasket of the world.
  And then, in the rural areas of my district, rural economic 
development is crucial, and the rural development funds are vital. So 
many things have been able to occur because of this funding.
  I ask my colleagues to support this bill because this is a perfect 
coming together. As former Congresswoman Shirley Chisolm said: A tree 
grows in Brooklyn. It is a good coming together of urban and rural 
supporting a dynamic bill and providing so that Americans are not food 
insecure and our children have the nutrition that they need.
  Let us vote for this bill.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, may I inquire as to how much time is left 
on both sides.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman from Texas has 13\1/2\ minutes 
remaining. The gentleman from Minnesota has 11 minutes remaining.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to yield 1\1/2\ minutes to 
the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Soto), a member of the committee.
  Mr. SOTO. Mr. Speaker, it has been a long road, but it looks like we 
are bringing it in for a landing, and America is thankful for a farm 
bill that we can all be proud of. That includes central Florida.
  We saw huge issues included to help out our orange growers in central 
Florida facing citrus greening, which is really hurting our local 
growers and hurting that iconic orange juice coming from Florida.
  We saw the inclusion of the National Animal Health Vaccine Bank, 
which helps out ranchers both in central Florida and throughout the 
United States.
  We saw a SNAP program that will continue to help out needy families.
  We saw prioritizing conservation, which is a win for both farmers and 
conservationists alike in an ever more crowded Florida.
  We also saw four bills that we crafted and put forward included, and 
I thank the gentleman from Texas and the gentleman from Minnesota for 
their help with that.
  The veterans with disabilities language that provides technical 
training, that was something that I got an idea of when I was out in 
Midland speaking to one of the gentleman from Texas' constituents.
  The bill that allowed for authorization of agricultural research 
between the United States and Israel is a program that needed a long 
time to be authorized, and we are excited to have it.
  Algae-based research to look at biofuels is helpful.
  And just to conclude, we are also developing high-tech sensors in 
central Florida for agriculture.
  I thank all of the people on the committee for their good work.

[[Page H10148]]

  

  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I continue to reserve the balance of my 
time.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, I am now pleased to yield 1 minute to the 
gentleman from Florida (Mr. Lawson), a member of the committee.
  Mr. LAWSON of Florida. Mr. Speaker, for the past 2 years, serving on 
the Agriculture Committee, we worked on the farm bill. But also, in my 
district, which is so important and critical, we have had two 
hurricanes. The resources that we have had from previous farm bills 
were very significant. We just got over Hurricane Michael, which has 
caused a lot of damage throughout my district.
  But the most important issue, even the other things that we are doing 
for farmers in this, is about food insecurity. When I talk about food 
insecurity, I talk about going into my area where 100 percent of 
students are on free and reduced lunch, and the farm bill takes care of 
that.
  I congratulate my leader and my chairman over here for their work and 
the hard work they put in to make this a reality.
  Also in this farm bill is money for HBCUs, historically African 
American universities, to do more research and to get more involved so 
that we can feed America.
  I am so proud and ask all of my colleagues to vote positively for 
this farm bill, because one great President said: ``The world will 
little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never 
forget what they did here.''
  I can tell you that when we vote for this bill, people in need--
farmers, all those people in this bill, the Forest Service and 
everything--will never forget what we did here, and I encourage you.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I continue to reserve the balance of my 
time.
  Mr. PETERSON. Mr. Speaker, in closing, I thank everybody who was 
involved in this, the committee members and their staff. It was a bumpy 
road, but we figured out how to get through it and came to a bipartisan 
conclusion. That is the important thing.
  This is a good bill for my district. I think it is a good bill for 
agriculture, in general, around the country, and it is a good bill for 
America.
  Mr. Speaker, I ask all of my colleagues to support H.R. 2, and I 
yield back the balance of my time.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.
  Mr. Speaker, before I finish, I would like to also add my thanks to 
the majority staff and the minority staff in the House, as well as the 
minority and the majority staff in the Senate. Untold hours were spent 
getting us to this place by these hardworking men and women who labor 
in relative anonymity. Collin and I get all the gratitude, pats on the 
back, hugs, and smooches, and they do all of the hard work.
  I would like to recognize Matt Schertz, my staff director; Bart 
Fischer, deputy staff director and chief economist; Patricia Straughn; 
Nicole Scott; Rachel Millard; Josh Maxwell; Jennifer Tiller; Paul 
Balzano; Trevor White; Callie McAdams; Caleb Crosswhite; Carly 
Reedholm; Mollie Wilken; Mindi Brookhart; John Weber; Jeremy Witte; 
Ashton Johnston; Yasmin Rey; Darryl Blakey; Abigail Camp; Ricki 
Schroeder; Margaret Wetherald; John Konya; Maggie Mullins; Faisal 
Siddiqui; Brian Martin-Haynes; Kevin Norton; Brandon Reeves; and Nicole 
Bayne for all of their hard work and all of the time spent away from 
their families over the last year-plus getting to this point.
  Mr. Speaker, in a few minutes, there are going to be red and green 
lights go up behind your head. Pressure that is facing America's 
farmers and ranchers and their families is just unimaginable to those 
of us who aren't directly in the business: pressures of 5 years of 
reduced income; 5 years of burning through savings and capital; 5 years 
of really difficult circumstances; commodity prices low with no real 
relief on the horizon; trade turmoil across the world; lots of things 
going bad; as I mentioned earlier in my conversation, a 30 percent 
increase in bankruptcies. But, Mr. Speaker, the one thought that 
troubles me the most is the increase in suicides. The pressures of 
losing a multigenerational farm and ranch operation must be incredible 
to cause men and women to decide to make an awful decision as a result 
of those pressures.
  This bill will help alleviate that. This bill takes a look at those 
pressures, takes a look at the stresses and strains across all of rural 
America--economic development issues, the issues within just the 
practice of farming and ranching--and says here are Federal resources 
that we want to put against those problems, against the issues of 
farmers going out of business, and continuing to provide to the 
American consumer the most abundant, safest, and affordable food supply 
of any developed nation in the world.
  Across these last 2 years, with President Trump in office, you have 
seen an awful lot of comments about ``buy America'' and ``let's produce 
things in America.'' There is nothing more American than food produced 
in our Nation, and this bill will keep us in that vein. It will keep 
those farmers and ranchers taking those risks, risks that none of us 
could imagine, year in and year out: worrying about Mother Nature, too 
much rain, too little rain, rain at the wrong time, too hot, not hot 
enough, all of those things that they have no control over. They will 
fight that fight day in and day out, and they are the best in the world 
at doing it.
  What they can't do, though, is fight against the cheating in the 
trade world that is out there, fight against commodity prices that they 
can't control. They can't control their input costs. They are takers of 
those costs, and they are takers of prices. They are at the mercy of an 
awful lot of pressures and stresses and strains that this bill tends to 
address.
  So, Mr. Speaker, the green lights, in my view, when they start 
lighting up, will be the Members who have taken a look at all these 
things, all these issues that are facing rural America and our farmers 
and ranchers, and will say, yes, this bill does, in fact, address 
those; it does get at those issues; it does offer 5 years of stability 
for these folks, 5 years of lenders being able to know what the safety 
net will look like and being able to lend against next year's crop, 5 
years of certainty.
  We all work better under certainty, and knowing what this farm bill 
looks like, wrong or different, is far better than the option of us 
rolling this over to next year and starting this process over. Those 
green lights will be Members who have looked at all of that and said, 
yes, this bill is worthy of my support, worthy of my vote.
  Mr. Speaker, the red lights will say something entirely different. It 
will say that we looked at those exact same issues, we looked at these 
solutions, these Federal resources, and said either they are too much, 
not enough, they want it to go somewhere else, or, Mr. Speaker, 
unfortunately, there will be some who will say, well, there just 
weren't things in there that we would like to have happen.
  Mr. Speaker, the House version that we passed back in June took some 
mighty bold steps toward reforming SNAP and moving in a direction that 
most of us believe was supported by the American people. Asking SNAP 
recipients to work 20 hours a week in order to maintain that public 
benefit, that public effort, we believe was the right way to go. That 
was not supported broadly by the body across the building, and we made 
the compromises necessary to get us to this place.
  In spite of that, though, Mr. Speaker, we made good reforms toward 
the SNAP process, toward program integrity, and making the program work 
better for folks who need these programs.
  The House version never intended to touch, nor did it touch, the 
folks we will always take care of: the elderly, the mentally and 
physically disabled, those who are temporarily out of whack. It never 
touched that.
  What it did, Mr. Speaker, was go after those folks who are able-
bodied, should be working and should be in the workforce. We have 7 
million unfilled jobs today, and there is work ahead of us to make this 
happen.
  Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, I thank my colleagues on the other side 
of the aisle. I thank Collin Peterson for his hard work on the 
conference committee. I thank our Senate colleagues who took a 
different view, but we are here today. Mr. Speaker, I pray that when 
the lights go up behind your head that there are more green lights than 
red lights, we can get this to the President's desk, and get that 
certainty for rural America that is necessary.

[[Page H10149]]

  Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.
  Ms. FUDGE. Mr. Speaker, the conference report for the 2018 Farm Bill 
continues our safety net for farmers and maintains a safety net for 
struggling Americans. I would like to share with my colleagues a little 
bit more about how the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, also known 
as the 2018 Farm Bill, makes key improvements to protect the integrity 
of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP, while still 
preserving critical food access for millions of families.
  The bill does not accomplish everything on this front that I and many 
of my democratic colleagues might have wanted. Many of us would have 
been looking for ways to make needed investments in this vital food 
benefit for tens of millions of Americans. But, the provisions related 
to SNAP, the nation's most effective nutrition program, make modest and 
useful improvements in this essential weapon in the fight against 
hunger in our nation. Just as important, the bill protects SNAP by 
rejecting proposals in the House Farm Bill that would have severely 
weakened the program and taken food assistance away from nearly 2 
million people.
  First, I would like to talk about the SNAP improvements in the bill, 
one of which will help people who are experiencing homelessness to get 
better food assistance. SNAP's benefit formula assumes that families 
will spend 30 percent of their net income for food. In determining 
their net income, households can deduct certain expenses that limit the 
funds they have available to pay for food, including housing.
  Like other individuals and families, those who are homeless often 
face housing costs, like paying for a motel room or reimbursing friends 
or family for a temporary home. Congress created the homeless shelter 
deduction to give them access to additional SNAP benefits by allowing 
them to deduct their shelter costs. The 2002 Farm Bill improved the 
deduction by allowing states to set it at a flat $143 rather than 
requiring them to collect and submit the paperwork needed to verify 
their shelter costs. My own state of Ohio adopted this option years 
ago. I cannot understand why all states haven't taken this easy step to 
assist homeless households obtain food assistance that reflects their 
actual out of pocket costs. I am pleased the conference report requires 
all states to adopt the deduction and raise the $143 figure each year 
to reflect inflation, so the deduction keeps its value over time.
  In setting the homeless shelter deduction as a standard part of the 
program, the Farm Bill also maintains its key features. States will 
have flexibility to decide what kinds of documentation they will accept 
from clients claiming shelter costs, including the client's statement 
of what they have been spending. And, states must continue to help 
homeless households claim the regular shelter deduction rather than the 
homeless deduction if that would get them more SNAP benefits.
  Another SNAP improvement in the conference report will set the stage 
for future, much-needed improvements in the basic SNAP benefit. The 
bill includes a House Farm Bill provision requiring USDA to revise its 
Thrifty Food Plan--which reflects the cost of a basic, nutritionally 
adequate diet--on a regular basis to reflect the latest information on 
food costs, actual consumption, and dietary guidelines. This is an 
important step because SNAP benefit amounts are based on the Thrifty 
Food Plan.
  When USDA updates the Thrifty Food Plan to reflect current consumer 
choices and newer healthy food guidelines, the Administration has 
always required that USDA's new Thrifty Food Plan food basket cost the 
same as the old basket. That means that USDA has had to make 
unrealistic assumptions about what a typical household can actually do 
to buy and prepare food. Academics, including the National Academy of 
Sciences, have noted how distorted the current package is relative to 
what is realistic about what households typically buy, how much time it 
takes them and how much food that meets the dietary guidelines actually 
costs--even when it is a very bare bones diet. I want to make clear 
that our provision does not have that cost limitation and we fully 
expect the Administration to report out to us what the cost of a modern 
Thrifty Food Plan would costs. I expect that means that the cost will 
increase and as a result that SNAP' s maximum allotment will also 
increase, an adjustment that is long overdue.
  The conference report also has provisions to help more food retailers 
support SNAP. Nearly 9,700 Ohio food stores participate in SNAP. In my 
own district, the 11th District, it is just over 800 stores, ranging 
from large superstores to local farmers' markets. The new bill will 
enable retailers to offer incentives for SNAP participants. Stores will 
still have to treat SNAP participants like other customers, but with 
one exception. Stores will now have the option of offering them modest 
incentives, such as targeted coupons.
  As I mentioned earlier, the conference report is as important for 
what it does not do regarding SNAP as for what it does do. The 
Conference Committee rejected all the harsh benefit and eligibility 
changes in the House bill, which means SNAP will still be available to 
the tens of millions of Americans who use it to help them afford a 
decent diet.
  Most notably, the conference report rejects the House approach of 
taking away SNAP benefits from those who struggle to work. Instead, it 
seeks to improve clients' job outcomes by focusing on job training. It 
encourages states to work more directly with local employers, expands 
the options that states have over the types of programs they can offer 
through their SNAP employment and training programs, and reallocates 
funds to states with existing pilot programs and states with programs 
that target specific populations with barriers to work, such as the 
formerly incarcerated. While job search will no longer be allowed as an 
allowable stand-alone activity, states will be able to continue 
supervised job search programs as they see fit, including online job 
search that meets state supervision requirements and definitions.
  The Conference Committee also rejected House provisions that would 
shorten SNAP's three-month time limit to one month and expand the 
population subject to the rule to a broader group of recipients. We 
also rejected the House's proposal to limit states' flexibility to 
waive high-unemployment areas from the three-month limit. Contrary to 
statements by some House members, governors are aware of the waivers 
their state SNAP agencies seek, but the conference report clarifies 
current practice by stating that states seek should waivers with the 
authority provided to them by their chief executive. We specifically 
directed USDA that this clarification should have no impact on the 
current waiver process and that the agency may not add additional steps 
or clearances to the application process.
  We also rejected the House's proposal to undo a long-standing state 
option called categorical eligibility. Under this option, states can 
import the gross income or asset tests from a TANF-funded program into 
SNAP. States can simplify and streamline SNAP eligibility and 
enrollment processes but easing these rules and they can expand who is 
eligible for the program including more working poor, recently 
unemployed with modest savings and more senior households with savings 
above the federal limits. This House proposal would have eliminated 
benefits for some 2 million people in nearly 1 million households. I 
appreciate Senator Stabenow's leadership in fighting back against this 
proposal.
  Another House proposal the conference report wisely rejected would 
force all states to require SNAP participants to cooperate with child 
support enforcement--something that's now a state option as a condition 
of SNAP eligibility. Given the deep concerns about the current option 
we heard from community groups representing grandparents and victims of 
domestic violence in states that have adopted it, we could not mandate 
the option. In fact, we included a study on this option to better 
understand its impact. USDA can help us gather more information about 
the damage this option is causing particularly by gathering the 
perspective of those individuals who avoid SNAP out of fear of having 
to cooperate with child support enforcement.
  In contrast to the issues I have discussed above, strengthening 
SNAP's payment accuracy and reducing fraud is not a partisan question, 
and the conference report reflects that fact. For example, it requires 
all states to implement a pilot program called the National Accuracy 
Clearinghouse, which uses data matching to ensure an individual or 
household doesn't receive SNAP from two different states 
simultaneously. This is relatively rare and can occur due to state 
error or deliberate fraud. It usually is not due to fraud--instead, it 
generally happens when SNAP participants move to a new state and apply 
for benefits there, after notifying their former state that they were 
leaving, but the former state does not expeditiously take them off the 
program. Nevertheless, it is a problem that needs addressing, and this 
new interstate data matching will help states do that by making their 
processes for disenrolling families more efficient and accurate. This 
will only be an improvement to the program if USDA ensures that this 
process happens seamlessly for applicants, including resolving any 
issues with a state that shows the clients remain enrolled. SNAP 
participants are by their very nature struggling to afford food and 
life's necessities. They cannot afford time of work, long distance 
phone calls or attorneys to settle bureaucratic nuances. The sensible 
approach would be simply to disenroll the client from the state 
claiming dual enrollment and let it end there. Without evidence the 
client was trying to commit a crime by enrolling twice, USDA and states 
should assume innocent error and leave it at that.
  One change that might surprise my colleagues is that we discovered 
that by dropping a Senate pilot program on income verification

[[Page H10150]]

we might actually advance state efforts to streamline verification. The 
Senate bill included a provision to test using third party data 
sources, mostly run by private companies to verify income. Large 
employers like big box stores or fast food chains employ many workers 
who are also eligible for benefits. They often use a third-party vendor 
to verify income for programs like SNAP and Medicaid. You would think 
we would have been anxious to sort how best to move forward with 
helping states to use this type of verification. The Conference 
Committee came to understand that many states are already using these 
private vendors to verify income. As it happens, states are paying for 
these services for SNAP with a federal match, and the Department of 
Health and Human Services (HHS) is also paying the same vendor for the 
same data to assist states with verifying income for health benefit 
determinations. States have access to the HHS data for Medicaid but 
cannot use it for SNAP under the limits of the contract. Fortunately, 
HHS can elect an option under the contract to share the same income 
verification data they provide to Medicaid with SNAP. This would be an 
extraordinary advancement in simplification and accuracy and it ought 
to provide the federal government monetary savings. This type of 
economy of scale in procurement would be a real windfall in contract 
payment and improve benefit accuracy.
  Also, to explore new ways SNAP can help low-income populations, the 
conference report authorizes USDA to work with states to set up 
longitudinal data sets using SNAP administrative data and other sources 
that would allow states, USDA, and researchers to study caseload 
dynamics and other issues over time. While our preference would be to 
capture states' entire caseload for the dataset, perfection should not 
be the enemy of the good. The goal is to pursue research, not to build 
a perfect dataset. States can decide what will work best for them with 
respect to how to construct the dataset--whether they want to use a 
sample of their caseload or some other approach. By contrast, there 
must be consistent federal rules ensuring the highest degree of data 
privacy and security for clients. This data is meant to be available to 
researchers and the public to use, so all personal identifying 
information must be removed from the records.
  That brings me to the issue of quality control. The conference report 
includes several changes designed to create more consistency among 
states in how they measure payment accuracy. In the past, FNS has not 
evenly applied the rules in this area across states; the conference 
report changes largely codify steps USDA is taking to help address this 
problem. Going forward, FNS and the states must work together to 
improve consistency in measuring payment accuracy. For its part, FNS 
must strengthen federal review of state quality control procedures.
  On a related issue, the final conference report eliminates bonuses to 
states for high and improved performance in key aspects of program 
operations. States are always expected to deliver high quality services 
through SNAP to participants. This is required by law and is expected 
by Congress and taxpayers. Quality, timely and accurate delivery of 
benefits to eligible households is the basic standard. Eliminating 
bonuses does not change that. Nor should it change USDA's scrutiny of 
state performance on these fronts. Payment accuracy, including improper 
denials, program access and timeliness are all standards against which 
states must be measured, and when states to not perform to expected 
standards, USDA must and will continue to take corrective actions.
  In sum, while this legislation is necessarily a compromise, overall 
it will make SNAP stronger and better able to help millions of 
Americans put food on the table--including families with children, 
persons with disabilities, and seniors. SNAP is more important to our 
nation's seniors than many realize.
  The typical SNAP household with an elderly member includes a single 
elderly person with income of about $11,000 a year, or a little below 
the poverty line. In fact, nearly 3 in 4 SNAP households with an 
elderly member live in poverty. SNAP households with an elderly member 
receive an average of about $1,500 a year in benefits.
  The House Farm Bill would have cut SNAP eligibility for seniors, made 
it harder for grandparents informally caring for their grandchildren to 
participate in SNAP, and subjected older workers to work requirements 
despite the difficulty they face in the labor market. One of the main 
strengths of the conference report is that it does not include these 
and other negative House proposals. That rejection, along with the 
conference report's modest positive changes, will help SNAP continue to 
fulfill its role of supporting needy families in our nation.
  Mr. NEAL. Mr. Speaker, I want to commend the efforts of my colleagues 
on the Agriculture Committee, which have resulted in this bipartisan 
bill. I am particularly pleased that the conference report rejects 
controversial provisions from the House bill, which would have 
increased hunger and hardship for millions of Americans, who are 
struggling to work. The House-passed cuts would have harmed many 
children, seniors, and working parents in my home state of 
Massachusetts, where about one in nine residents currently relies on 
the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program (SNAP) to put food on the 
table.
  I would like to comment in more detail about one specific cut that 
the Conference Committee rejected. It was titled ``Update to 
Categorical Eligibility'', but the proposal was largely a repeal of a 
decades-old state option in SNAP that allows states to liberalize the 
SNAP gross income and asset test by providing them or providing access 
to a TANF-funded benefit. Repealing this option would have terminated 
food assistance to close to 2 million low-income people across the 
country, including families in Massachusetts. The Conference Committee 
was wise to reject the cut.
  As a member of the Ways and Means Committee since 1993 and as a 
member who was actively engaged in our debates and supported final 
passage of the 1996 law, I'd like to remind my colleagues of this 
option in SNAP to use TANF income and asset tests to simplify 
administration and access to benefits families need.
  Under categorical eligibility, states can raise SNAP income 
eligibility cutoffs and asset limits and align SNAP's rules with those 
that states set for benefits funded through TANF. With this option, 32 
states have lifted SNAP's income limits, extending the program to more 
working families. Over 40 states have used the option to adopt less 
restrictive asset tests, that is, the amount of financial assets, such 
as in a savings account, that a household may own and remain eligible 
for SNAP. Making the safety net more flexible and allowing states to be 
more responsive to the needs of working families was a key design 
feature of the welfare law. This option to expand what was then called 
food stamps and the option to expand Medicaid were key elements of that 
purpose. President Clinton set up the guidelines that govern the option 
which are very much in keeping with how TANF benefits work.
  Unfortunately, it would appear that the Trump Administration may 
attempt to make the policy change Congress specifically rejected, 
without our authorization. The Administration has signaled that it 
plans to re-regulate the rules governing categorical eligibility. Let 
me be clear, the Administration has no authority to roll back or curb 
the option. The law is straightforward. Households that receive a TANF-
funded benefit are categorically eligible for SNAP. And, TANF law is 
clear that funds under the block grant can go for purposes and 
populations that cover all SNAP eligible households. This decades-old 
policy option is not up for debate or reinterpretation. In converting 
the Aid for Dependent Families entitlement program into a block grant, 
Congress understood the tremendous flexibility it was giving states to 
use funds for a wide range of purposes, including both assistance and 
benefit programs. How states use the funds can be inspirational or 
frustrating. Many of us wish they would focus more on serving poor 
children. Nevertheless, the legal flexibility conferred to states under 
the TANF block grant funding stream to create benefit programs and 
services with many different purposes and with less restrictive 
eligibility rules than SNAP also means that states can use these 
programs to confer categorical eligibility, and provide SNAP for all 
those determined eligible for such programs. This includes programs and 
services created solely to leverage this option.
  The Trump Administration would be wise not to attempt an unlawful 
rollback of this option. It would run counter to the law and harm 
families in need.
  Mr. GOODLATTE. Mr. Speaker, American agriculture is a dynamic part of 
our national economy and a significant part of our local communities. 
Agriculture impacts the life of every American, and it is important 
that this industry can continue to meet the needs of our nation.
  This Farm Bill Conference Report strikes a strong balance of reforms 
while providing the stability that our nation's farmers and rural 
communities need. Over the past five years rural America has endured 
some of the toughest economic times seen in generations. These 
hardworking men and women get up every day to put food not only on 
their table, but yours and mine as well.
  This Farm Bill provides the stability they need to run a successful 
business and take care of their families. It strengthens rural 
development initiatives and makes significant investments in rural 
broadband.
  Additionally, while promoting sound agriculture policy this 
legislation legalizes the production of hemp as an agricultural 
commodity and removes it from the list of controlled substances. In 
2017, the sale of hemp products totaled an estimated 800 million 
dollars in the United States, however the majority of those products 
were imported from China and Canada. American farmers will now be able 
to

[[Page H10151]]

take advantage of this untapped market and begin growing hemp to 
capitalize on its many commercial uses.
  In closing, I would like to commend Chairman Conaway and his staff 
for their unrelenting work on this Farm Bill. It has been a privilege 
to fight alongside you on the House Agriculture Committee to ensure 
prosperity for rural America. I am proud to support this important 
legislation and it has been a true privilege to represent the interests 
of farmers from Virginia's Sixth District. I urge a yes vote
  Ms. LEE. Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman for his tremendous 
leadership on this bill and so many other issues. It is because of 
democratic leadership that this bill rejected all of the harmful 
changes to nutrition, so I thank him for that.
  I rise today in support of the Farm Bill conference report (H.R. 2). 
This bill reauthorizes SNAP--our nation's first line of defense against 
hunger. This bill also rejects the dangerous and immoral work 
requirements, which would have pushed 2 million people further into 
hunger and poverty.
  Mr. Speaker, nutrition assistance helps 40 million people put food on 
the table. And the vast majority of families who receive food stamps 
are working.
  In fact, more than 80 percent of SNAP households work the year before 
or after receiving aid. This program helps the working poor, children, 
the disabled and seniors. It's a necessary lifeline to our fellow 
Americans who otherwise would go hungry.
  And I know how important this program is, Mr. Speaker, when I was a 
young, single mom raising two little boys, I relied on food stamps to 
help my family during a very difficult time in my life. It was a bridge 
over troubled waters. And quite frankly I would not be where I am today 
without that assistance.
  All families should have this bridge over troubled waters when they 
need it.
  And Mr. Speaker, while this bill is a step in the right direction for 
our anti-poverty work, we must do more to ensure that all families have 
nutritious and regular meals every day. No one in the richest nation on 
earth should go hungry but unfortunately 40 million do. 40 million.
  So, I urge my colleagues support this bill and to redouble our 
efforts to end poverty and hunger in our nation.

  The SPEAKER pro tempore. All time for debate has expired.
  Pursuant to House Resolution 1176, the previous question is ordered 
on the conference report.
  The question is on the conference report.
  The question was taken; and the Speaker pro tempore announced that 
the ayes appeared to have it.
  Mr. CONAWAY. Mr. Speaker, on that I demand the yeas and nays.
  The yeas and nays were ordered.
  The SPEAKER pro tempore. Pursuant to clause 8 of rule XX, further 
proceedings on this question will be postponed.

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