Congress should provide $30 billion for climate-friendly agricultural practices and organic production in the upcoming reconciliation bill, said five dozen farm, environmental, and food groups in a letter to Democratic leaders on Wednesday.
The 11 Republican members of the Senate Agriculture Committee asked chairwoman Debbie Stabenow on Thursday to open up the decision-making process on how to spend a potential windfall of $135 billion.
Whether they are Democrats or Republicans, members of the House and Senate Agriculture committees routinely say the panels are the least partisan in Congress, even if the harmony is strained from time to time. In the weeks ahead, the infighting over President Biden's two-part infrastructure package will test that comity on the Senate panel.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a mammoth USDA-FDA funding bill on Wednesday that includes $7 billion in disaster funds for crop and livestock losses in 2020 and this year. Almost immediately after the 25-5 vote, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell threatened to sidetrack the USDA and other appropriations bills in a budget dispute with Democrats, who control the Senate.
Farm, wildlife, and environmental groups, from the Sierra Club to the National Farmers Union, on Wednesday called on lawmakers to increase funding for USDA land stewardship programs by $50 billion.
Thirty Democrats in the House and Senate, in a letter to congressional leaders working on broad-scale climate and infrastructure legislation, called for "a substantial investment in farmers, ranchers, and rural communities as part of the climate solution."
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue reached back to his days as a governor to explain why the Trump administration proposed a 31-percent cut in crop insurance funding even if the plan has no traction on Capitol Hill.
This week's White House budget proposal to cut crop insurance by 31 percent and to tighten eligibility rules for farm subsidies would save less in 10 years than the administration spent to mitigate the impact of the Sino-U.S. trade war on 2018 and 2019 farm production, said an economist.
The Trump administration proposed a 29 percent cut in food stamps on Monday, to be achieved by requiring more recipients to work at least 20 hours a week and by providing some benefits in the form of a box of food instead of letting people buy food themselves at grocery stores. The White House also asked Congress for stricter rules for access to free meals for low-income children at public schools.