Pointing to forecasts of a second year in a row of falling farm income, Republican senators called for more money for farm subsidies on Wednesday. “We’ve got to get it right for production agriculture” in the new farm bill, said North Dakota’s John Hoeven at a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing.
In the final piece of The Farm Bill Fight, a series by FERN and Mother Jones on the changing nature of America's most important agricultural law, Bridget Huber makes the case for expanding a pilot program that gives Native Americans more control over their food supply.
During a sometimes prickly House hearing on Wednesday, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urged lawmakers to buckle down and write a farm bill that does not cut SNAP or climate funds. Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee said the Biden administration has overlooked the needs of the large-scale farmers who produce the bulk of U.S. crops and livestock.
The federally subsidized crop insurance program will cost an additional $27.7 billion over the coming decade, said the Congressional Budget Office in projections released on Monday. The government pays roughly 62 cents of each $1 in premiums, and sales of livestock and forage policies are exploding.
House Agriculture chairman Glenn Thompson declared, "I am at the table" to write the new farm bill — with multibillion-dollar cuts already rejected by Democrats on the committee. "I hope my colleagues across the aisle join me," said Thompson, as farm bill leaders clashed over the direction of the moribund legislation.
Farm-state lawmakers should take advantage of an offer of billions of dollars in new resources and negotiate the new farm bill now, said Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow. The Michigan Democrat called for action following a USDA forecast of a steep drop in farm income and a Congressional Budget Office forecast of lower SNAP costs for years to come.
With the state of the next farm bill in crisis, FERN and Mother Jones launched a series of articles that analyze the nature of that crisis and explore the emerging issues that are changing the mandate of the nation’s most important agricultural legislation. In today’s piece, Claire Kelloway unpacks the ill-fated and sometimes shameful histories of the major debates that continue to shape today’s farm bill.
In a bid to break the farm bill deadlock, Senate Agriculture Committee chair Debbie Stabenow said that she was “open to proposals” to increase so-called effective reference prices for all crops in the U.S. farm program but would not accept cuts in SNAP or climate funding. “If we’re going to get a farm bill done this spring to keep farmers farming, it’s time to get serious,” she said in a letter to all senators.
The new farm bill should allow the purchase of hot foods with food stamps, said a letter signed by one-fifth of U.S. senators and representatives. The prohibition on hot food, in place since SNAP was created, "is no longer an accurate reflection of American families' dietary or lifestyle needs," said the lawmakers in a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees.
Three farm, food, and hunger group leaders called on Congress on Wednesday to enact a new farm bill by early 2024, although there were few signs the legislation would be ready to go. “We’re focused on getting it done, and if it means by December, we will be proud of that, and if we get it out in the first quarter [of 2024], we will be proud of that,” said Zippy Duvall of the American Farm Bureau Federation.
Sixty-one House Republicans called on Speaker Mike Johnson for speedy passage of the new farm bill, despite a grim outlook for the legislation expressed by a leading analyst. Work on the farm bill is at an impasse among farm-state lawmakers over crop subsidy and climate funding, with conservatives itching for the chance during floor debate to constrain SNAP eligibility and outlays. (No paywall)
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.
More than 44 million Americans experienced food insecurity last year, the highest number since 2014, at the same time that pandemic assistance was reduced, said a USDA report on Wednesday. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and anti-hunger groups called on Congress to protect funding for public nutrition programs, including WIC and SNAP.
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.
With the end of emergency pandemic aid, monthly government spending on SNAP has fallen by more than 25 percent, to an average of $7.9 billion, said the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities on Thursday. SNAP households were receiving at least $95 less per month, the think tank said.
House Republicans wrote a one-sided, "slapdash and reckless" bill to keep the government running after Sept. 30, said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday. House passage of the GOP package, which called for an 8 percent cut in discretionary spending from current levels with an exemption for the military and veterans, was not certain since some Republican lawmakers spoke against it.
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.
A decade after the House briefly put the idea into play, a senior Republican on the House Agriculture Committee said the far-ranging farm bill should be divided into two separate pieces of legislation: SNAP and everything else. SNAP, which cost $119 billion last year, has become “an emotional, political issue” that taints consideration of farm supports, said Rep. Austin Scott of Georgia.