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Even at Farm Bill Signing, For Trump It’s All About the Wall

President signs five-year reauthorization at White House, but talks about border standoff

Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee, helped shepherd the farm bill to passage. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas, leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee, helped shepherd the farm bill to passage. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

President Donald Trump signed the 2018 farm bill after entering the ceremony to the theme from the “Green Acres” sitcom of the 1960s about a city slicker and his society wife who move to the country to become hobby farmers. But before praising farmers, Trump renewed his demand for $5 billion in border wall funding, making much of the ceremony about the ongoing fight over the border wall and an ensuing government shutdown. 

Trump called securing the U.S.-Mexico border an “absolute duty,” saying “any measure that funds the government has to include border security — has to.”

“We have no choice,” he said at the farm bill signing event. 

He wants $5 billion this year for the barrier project. Democrats are opposed, making a partial government shutdown more likely as the holidays approach.

Using the rhetoric of his 2016 campaign, he contended that illegal immigration inevitably brings “chaos, crime” and “cartels” into the United States. As he often does, the president did not provide any supporting data.

“I will not surrender this nation to the criminal organizations who prey on the vulnerable … and spread human misery and suffering,” the president said, digging in on his position as a Friday night deadline to fund the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies loomed.

And he claimed illegal border crossings are at a “tremendous level,” making, to him, a border wall necessary. Trump said he has started calling his proposed wall “steel slats” to give Democrats “an out” when they, as he predicted, eventually give him the monies.

Regarding the farm bill, meanwhile, the Congressional Budget Office says it would cost $428 billion for fiscal years 2019-2023 and $867 billion over a 10-year scoring window of fiscal 2019-2028.

Trump signed the bill even though it excluded Republican priorities Trump supported such as changes to food stamps.

In the event of a shutdown if the current stopgap government funding expires at midnight, it would have an impact on USDA because its fiscal 2019 spending bill is among the remaining seven appropriations bills that Congress has not passed. USDA is responsible for implementing the farm bill.

The House adopted the House-Senate conference report by a lopsided vote of 369-47 last week, a day after the Senate had approved the legislation 87-13.

The legislation would also remove hemp from the Controlled Substances Act, which would legalize hemp production. The 2014 farm bill, which expired Sept. 30, allowed limited hemp production for research projects approved and overseen by state and tribal governments.

The final bill rejected House provisions that would have broadened Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program work requirements, toughened eligibility criteria and changed the way monthly food aid benefits are calculated.

[Mitch McConnell Touting Victory With Hemp Legalization on Farm Bill]

However, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue has said USDA will issue a proposed rule that would tighten the conditions under which states can use federal waivers to exempt single able-bodied adult recipients of SNAP with no dependents from work requirements. The rule could come as soon as this week.

The compromise legislation has generally gotten high marks from industry and advocacy groups for its handling of land conservation, organic agriculture research and education, trade promotion and other programs.

The bill is so wide-ranging that the Congressional Black Caucus cited provisions that would provide funding to establish research centers at three historically black land-grant colleges and universities, end a funding restriction on such educational institutions not applied to white land-grant colleges, and help black farmers document ownership of so-called heirs’ property that is often passed down without a will or any record.

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