A long and winding road to a Farm Bill

After a long effort, the passage of a five-year Farm Bill made a huge step forward when a con­ference report cleared the House on a bi­partisan 251-166 vote. This compromise included several key items for electric ­cooperatives: It returned the ability for RUS to make ­baseload generation loans, authorized zero percent loans for consumer ­efficiency ­programs and made improvements to the Senate’s changes to the RUS broadband loan program.

For decades Farm Bills have included funding for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), along with commodity ­programs in order to secure enough votes for passage from a ­coalition of rural and urban members. This year that theory was tested as House conservatives insisted on deep SNAP cuts and reforms which were not supported by their more liberal and urban counterparts. In the end, the bill contained a modest SNAP cut of $8 billion over 10 years, or about 1 ­percent. Other battles were fought over dairy programs, conversion to more crop insurance-based risk ­management programs for ­commodities, and repealed a number of livestock ­production regulations.