Clock is Ticking on Farm Bill Reauthorization
October 6, 2023
Written By Adam Buckallew
The prospects of a new farm bill passing in 2023 appeared increasingly slim as Congress returned for a potentially chaotic fall session.
Following a monthlong summer recess, legislators faced a long to-do list, including preventing a government shutdown, reauthorization of the Federal Aviation Administration, replenishing disaster relief funds, deciding how to handle Ukraine aid moving forward, and passing a new farm bill.
As time dwindled before a crucial Sept. 30 deadline to fund federal agencies and reauthorize the farm bill, legislators looked to stopgap measures to maintain the status quo until legislative logjams could be broken.
During a press conference at the Missouri State Fair following a farm bill listening session on Aug. 14, the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee acknowledged an extension of the bill was likely.
“The clock is ticking,” Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., told reporters. “There’s a lot of competition for weeks on the (House) floor for the weeks in September because of all the appropriations bills and some other ones that expire just like the farm bill.”
The House and Senate Agriculture Committees have yet to advance a bill or even release the language of their respective bills. Thompson said he won’t mark up his bill draft in committee until House leadership is committed to floor time on a specific week.
Congress has been late to pass recent farm bills, including the 2018 Farm Bill, which was signed into law on Dec. 20, 2018. Each new iteration of the farm bill lasts for five years and sets the nation’s food and agriculture policy. The broad legislation covers everything from federal crop insurance, agricultural trade policy, conservation initiatives, rural development and nutritional assistance.
The nutritional component of the farm bill is its most expensive provision, accounting for more than 80% of the overall bill’s spending. The high cost has prompted some conservative Republicans to suggest splitting the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) from the farm bill, but Thompson quickly dispelled that notion.
“That’s not going to happen in terms of splitting the nutrition title from the other 11 titles,” Thompson said. “That’s my opinion. That’s a line I want to hold. I take great pride in the fact that farmers feed the nation and nutrition matters. So, the most appropriate place for the nutrition title is in the farm bill.”
During the listening session held at the Missouri State Fairgrounds, farmers representing a broad coalition of Missouri’s agricultural interests shared their opinions and concerns with several members of the House Ag Committee, including Thompson; Rep. Mark Alford, R-Mo.; Rep. Monica De La Cruz, R-Texas; Rep. Jonathon Jackson, D-Ill.; and former committee member Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo. The legislators listened to questions and requests from the Missouri agricultural community for nearly two hours. Farmers expressed a need for maintaining risk management programs, support for rural development, increased funding for conservation tools to strengthen on-farm resiliency, enhanced international marketing support and more.
Thompson said his committee will consider this feedback when crafting its bill.
“My goal is that the 2023 Farm Bill will be one that strengthens national security, restores the farm safety net and revitalizes rural America,” he said.
When farmers will ultimately see the passage of the 2023 Farm Bill remains unclear, but Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., says she hopes to have it signed into law prior to 2024.
“The committee is continuing to work toward a bipartisan bill that can be signed into law by the end of the calendar year,” Stabenow said.