The new farm bill will not enacted until next year because of continuing disagreements over issues such SNAP benefits and higher crop subsidies, said Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow on Wednesday. “I am committed to passing a strong, bipartisan farm bill as soon as possible,” she said, but the process is taking longer than hoped.
The senior Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee “is having conversations about an extension” of the 2018 farm law into the new year, said a spokesperson on Wednesday. Farm leaders in Congress have said they intend to enact a new farm bill by late December, but a legislative logjam is growing on Capitol Hill.
Although two senators identified the farm bill as a potential way to restrict foreign ownership of U.S. farmland, Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow said on Wednesday that the annual defense authorization act seemed a better bet. Senators added language to the defense bill in July to prohibit China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea from purchasing U.S. farmland and agricultural companies.
The looming government shutdown is an example of the roadblocks facing the new farm bill, Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow told reporters on Wednesday. “Everything keeps getting in our way,” she said. “It’s an unusual time.”
Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow curtly rejected on Thursday a suggestion to divert climate change funding for agriculture to more generalized soil and water conservation work. “I know that there is a broad coalition of support standing with me,” she said.
Congress should provide a “meaningful enhancement” of crop subsidies and the crop insurance program in light of declining farm income, said Republican staff workers on the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday. “Headwinds persist in the U.S. farm economy,” they said in a report, pointing to a slowdown in farm exports, weakening commodity prices, high production costs, and rising interest rates.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack should tap a USDA reserve fund to expand international food aid and export promotion programs, said the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee in a letter released on Wednesday.
Growers in the U.S. South could lose $1.4 billion in farm subsidies over the next decade if Congress decides to align payments more closely with the crops they produce, said an analysis by Republicans on the Senate Agriculture Committee. “A mandatory base acre update would create winners and losers ... and most certainly complicate efforts to pass a new farm bill,” said the analysis.
At the same time that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called for more attention to small and midsize farmers, who see limited revenue from agriculture, a key Southern senator cautioned on Thursday against “a small farm versus big farm conflict” in writing the new farm bill. Large-scale operators collect the lion’s share of U.S. farm subsidies at present because payments are tied to production volume.
The price tag for SNAP is going up so quickly — doubling during the pandemic — that it will poison support for the farm subsidy and land stewardship programs that make up the rest of the farm bill, said the senior Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee on Thursday. “You are going to crowd out our ability ... to use funds on other programs,” said Arkansas Sen. John Boozman.
The government has spent nearly $70 billion on disaster, trade war, and pandemic relief since the 2018 farm bill was enacted, a huge amount that shows the need for a strong farm safety net that’s written into law rather than on the fly, said farm-state senators on Thursday. They called for a stronger and expanded crop insurance program as the first line of support for farmers and ranchers against uncertain weather, volatile commodity markets, and rising production expenses.
Senate Agriculture chair Debbie Stabenow, who rejected Republican attempts to slash SNAP in the 2014 and 2018 farm bills, said on Thursday that she would retire from the Senate in two years — enough time to enact another farm bill. Stabenow, the first woman elected to the Senate from Michigan, is serving her second stint as Agriculture chair and has said for months that “we’re not going backwards” on SNAP in the new farm bill.
House Democrats elected Georgia Rep. David Scott as their leader on the Agriculture Committee on Thursday for the congressional session that begins on Jan. 3. The vote means the “four corners” of the 2023 farm bill will be the same four lawmakers who led the House and Senate ag committees for the past two years.
Although lawmakers may try to cut SNAP benefits as part of the farm bill due in 2023, “we’re not going backwards,” said Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow at a food conference on Thursday. Deadline for the bill is Sept. 30, although “oftentimes there has to be an extension. So that may happen.”
Asia is brimming with opportunities to win lifelong consumers of U.S. food and ag exports, said President Biden’s nominee for USDA undersecretary for trade on Thursday. At a Senate nomination hearing, Alexis Taylor said her priorities would be opening foreign markets to U.S. goods and the diligent enforcement of the rules governing trade agreements.
The Senate Agriculture Committee quickly approved legislation on Wednesday that would require meatpackers to buy a portion of their slaughter cattle on the cash market — a step intended to ensure fair prices — and create a USDA special investigator to enforce fair-play rules in the highly concentrated meat industry.
Republican senators slammed the Biden administration on Thursday for high inflation nationwide and said the USDA should free American farmers to plant as much land as they want to avert a potential food crisis. “We’re all hammered with” inflation, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
The first Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the 2023 farm bill will be held in Michigan on April 29, announced committee leaders on Wednesday. Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow has said field hearings in Michigan and Arkansas would begin the process of gathering ideas for the bill.