Politics

Harvey-Devastated Farmers, Ranchers Await Congressional Action On Farm Bill

House and Senate negotiators have just a few more weeks to hammer out a compromise before the end of the current Congress forces them to start from scratch.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue surveying agricultural damage from Hurricane Harvey, from Houston to El Campo, Texas, on September 21, 2017. He was joined by House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway (TX-11) and other members of the Texas Congressional delegation.

The Houston area has a lot at stake in whether Congress passes a farm bill this year, and just a few more workdays remain in the lame-duck session

There are more than 15,000 farms and ranches in Greater Houston. Most rely on federal price supports and crop insurance as a hedge against uncertainty.

“The biggest example that we have in the Houston area is the hurricane that hit not too terribly long ago,” said Laramie Adams, national legislative director for the Texas Farm Bureau. Harvey destroyed crops across the region. Adams said those farmers are still trying to get back on their feet.

“Even though Houston’s a major city,” he said, “I think everyone in Houston likes to eat, and when our farmers and ranchers are struggling, it makes it harder for them to produce the food that goes into the grocery stores and ultimately on the table.”

One of the main holdups is that the House wants to impose stricter work requirements on recipients of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps. The Senate does not. Last month, nearly 641,000 Harris County residents received food aid through SNAP. That’s down from just over 729,000 in October 2017, after Harvey struck.

Parts of the current farm bill expired September 30, while the rest will expire December 31. If lawmakers fail to pass a replacement by the end of the year, the incoming Congress will have to start from scratch in January.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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