Senator warns of farm-size conflict in farm bill negotiations
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.
Rising cost of SNAP could drive farmers out of farm bill coalition, says Boozman
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.
Strengthen the farm safety net and rely less on bailouts, say farm-state senators
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.
Nutrition, conservation advocate Stabenow to retire in two years
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.
The ‘four corners’ of ag policy are back for the 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.
Food stamp fights are possible in 2023 farm bill, says Stabenow
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.”
USDA trade nominee would pair market opening with enforcement
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.
Senate committee approves two livestock marketing reform bills
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.
Trust the farmer, says Vilsack, as senators warn of food shortages
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.
Senate Ag to kick off farm bill hearings in Michigan
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.
Senate vote near for USDA farm subsidy and conservation chief
Three months ago, the Senate Agriculture Committee recommended Senate approval of Robert Bonnie to run the USDA's farm subsidy and land stewardship programs, which cost more than $10 billion a year. The nomination is set for a floor vote next week, after a series of delays forced by senators who put "holds" on it.
Boozman on Democrats: ‘Shattering the farm bill process’
The polarized debate over President Biden's $3.5 trillion "build back better" bill may imperil the drafting of the 2023 farm policy law, said the senior Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. Arkansas Sen. John Boozman blamed Democrats for a breakdown in bipartisanship, saying they were "shattering the farm bill process and putting our farmers' futures in jeopardy."
Wildfires and workplace are top priorities for Biden nominee to oversee U.S. forests
President Biden's nominee to oversee the 193 million-acre national forest system said on Thursday that he would focus on wildfire management and prevention and on eradicating racial and sexual discrimination at the Forest Service. "If confirmed, I will be the person responsible for providing leadership to ensure that everyone is treated fairly," said Homer Wilkes, a 41-year USDA employee.
Climate programs will be voluntary, incentive-based, says USDA nominee
The USDA's climate mitigation initiatives will be built on a simple rule: "If they don't work for producers and landowners, they're not going to work for the climate," said Robert Bonnie, the Biden nominee to run the USDA's crop subsidy and land stewardship programs, on Thursday. "Making sure we get that right is going to be a high priority."
We want a voice, too, say Republican senators
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.
Senate Democrats will apportion USDA bonus funds by themselves
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.
USDA nominees Bonnie and Torres Small are cleared for Senate vote
Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said the Senate Agriculture Committee is making progress on stocking the USDA with President Biden's choices for sub-cabinet posts. The committee advanced two nominations to the floor on Tuesday, creating the possibility of confirmation votes before the Senate adjourns for its summer recess.
USDA nominee will seek fair livestock marketing rules
Biden nominee Jennifer Moffitt said she would strengthen USDA rules to give farmers more muscle in dealing with meat processors if she is confirmed as agriculture undersecretary for marketing. "Should I be confirmed, I do commit to supporting trade, to supporting fair marketplace practices," she told senators on Thursday.
‘Oligopoly’ in cattle marketing demands action, say senators
With Sen. John Thune decrying an "oligopoly" in the beef industry, a handful of senators on Wednesday called for Congress to give cattle producers a fairer shake when they send their stock to market.