All 24 Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee signed a letter telling panel leaders on Monday "it would ultimately be a disservice to American farmers" to hijack the $20 billion earmarked in the farm bill for climate-mitigation projects. Some lawmakers, with Republicans the most vocal, would use the money to fatten the crop subsidy system.
To pay for farm bill priorities such as crop subsidies, House Agriculture chairman Glenn Thompson suggested $50 billion in cuts, mostly to climate change and public nutrition programs that are strongly supported by Democratic lawmakers. The proposal, quickly rejected, pointed to long-running disagreements over the farm bill with time running out for action this year.
Congress perennially recognizes the long-term payoff from agricultural research but repeatedly fails to adequately fund the work in the near term, said Kathleen Merrigan, who served as Deputy Secretary of Agriculture during the Obama era. During a panel discussion on the future of global agriculture, she put ag research at the top of her list of issues that need attention.
It will be difficult or even impossible for Congress to enact a new farm bill amid the disruptions of a federal shutdown, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told reporters at the White House on Monday. A shutdown could begin on Saturday when government funding lapses, which is the same day the 2018 farm law expires. But agricultural leaders in Congress have some leeway — until December — to act on the farm bill.
U.S. farm income will decline modestly in 2024 and then run at historically high levels in the near term, said the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute (FAPRI) think tank at the University of Missouri on Monday. Although well above average, net farm income of around $140 billion annually in coming years would be a step down from the record of $183 billion last year.
The Biden administration is broadening the U.S. agricultural economy through climate-smart and bioproduct initiatives while Congress is seemingly stymied over the new farm bill, said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Monday. He warned against raiding conservation funding to pay for higher reference prices for corn, soybeans, and other row crops, a leading goal of farm groups.
U.S. farm groups are giving priority to winning higher reference prices, a key factor in calculating crop subsidies, in the farm bill due this year in Congress. But the benefits would flow to a relative handful of large cotton, rice, and peanut growers, said an environmental group on Tuesday.
Lawmakers should refuse to make any cuts in SNAP, which is expected to be a major issue in drafting the new farm bill, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) said on Tuesday. Congress expanded the so-called work requirement for able-bodied adults enrolled in SNAP as part of debt limit legislation in June, and some House Republicans advocate using the farm bill as a way to place additional restrictions on food stamps.
Congress will have to extend temporarily the lifespan of the 2018 farm bill because it will miss the Sept. 30 deadline for enacting its successor, said House Agriculture chairman Glenn Thompson. It was the first direct acknowledgement by one of the "four corners" of farm policy — the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees — that the 2023 farm bill would be late.
House Agriculture chairman Glenn Thompson acknowledged on Monday that time is tight for enactment of the new farm bill by Sept. 30, when current law expires. But he stuck to his frequent forecast of a bipartisan and bicameral bill "on time," which might mean a floor vote in the House.
The new farm bill should encourage rural economic development by making high-speed internet widely available and build on historic investments in carbon sequestration, said a group of center-left House Democrats.
With the farm bill in mind, two Midwestern senators called for a "hard cap" of $250,000 in crop subsidies per farm, coupled with rules to limit the money to working farmers on Thursday. It would be an about-face in policy from recent years of easier access to USDA supports and emergency programs that paid up to $750,000 to corporate entities.
Over the past couple of months, the common target for enactment of the new farm bill has become "this year," rather than the Sept. 30 expiration of the current law. Chairman Glenn Thompson of the House Agriculture Committee said on Tuesday that Sept. 30 was becoming uncomfortably close on the calendar.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell all but ruled out new funding for the 2023 farm bill on Tuesday while the lead Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee said "we're in the early stages of negotiations with the House" on the legislation. Neither committee has taken a step in public to write a successor to the 2018 farm law, which expires on September 30.
Two out of three crop and livestock producers say they are uncertain or believe Congress is unlikely to enact a new farm bill this year, said a Purdue University survey on Tuesday. Neither the Senate nor House Agriculture committees has unveiled a preliminary version of the bill or scheduled a bill-drafting session, an unusually slow start.
The new farm bill should allow direct incentive payments by USDA to farmers who use surplus crop and forestry residues for biochar projects rather than burning them and releasing greenhouse gases, said the Carbon Business Council on Tuesday. The council, speaking for carbon management companies, also recommended that Congress create a permitting process for carbon storage on national forest land.
The 2023 farm bill is expected to be the most expensive ever but Congress will need additional funding to strengthen the farm and food safety nets, said the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee. In a letter, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Republican John Boozman said additional funding would allow a transition away from the repeated bailouts that have cost more than $90 billion since 2018.
If it wants them, Congress should act directly to include goals such as climate mitigation in the farm bill rather than resort to crop insurance "add ons" that could meddle with the soundness of the federally subsidized program, said two analysts on Tuesday. Crop insurance is the largest federal support to agriculture, with an estimated cost of $15.5 billion this year.