Lawmakers still divided over how to pass new bill

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

November 20, 2023

3 Min Read
Capitol building with American flag
Murat Taner/Getty Images

The ag world breathed a collective sigh of relief last Thursday when President Biden signed a continuing resolution that also extend the 2018 Farm Bill. Lawmakers now have until Sept. 30, 2024, to hash out a new bill. However, many ag industry leaders are hoping it will not take that long.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall says agriculture producers needs programs that reflect today’s realities. He notes that the 2018 Farm Bill was written before the COVID-19 pandemic, recent spikes in inflation and other global unrest that has affected the food system. While grateful that Congress passed an extension to avoid serious program disruptions, he says time is running out to write a new bill. He urged the House and the Senate to stay focused on a new, modernized farm bill that recognizes the changes and challenges that have happened since 2018.

“We need a new farm bill in early 2024,” Duvall says. “The farm bill affects every American by helping to ensure a safe, stable and affordable food supply. Let’s make sure we get it right in 2024.”

Officials with other ag trade organizations, the National Milk Producers Federation, USA Rice, Competitive Marks Action, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and others also praised the extension while calling for a new bill sooner than later.

National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition Policy Director Mike Lavender says the expiring provision in the 2018 bill required immediate attention. While happy that an extension provides a degree of stability and breathing room, he echoed Duvall’s concerns about the 2018 bill being out of date.

“The intervening years have been among the most tumultuous in our nation’s history – as an increasingly disruptive and changing climate, the COVID-19 pandemic and societal impacts, and a long-overdue racial justice reckoning conspired to thoroughly unveil the fragility of our current food system,” Lavender says.

“Farmers, ranchers, and food system stakeholders deserve updated federal policy that levels the playing field, invests in a climate resilient future, and advances racial equity. We implore Congress to pass a strong, bipartisan farm bill in early 2024.”

Key sticking points

Lawmakers face significant hurdles to passing a new farm bill. Many on the Republican side are pressing for across-the-board spending cuts. At the same time, multiple Republicans on the Congressional agriculture committee are hoping to allocate more money to certain farm programs. Where that money comes from remains the key question.

Some have suggested re-purposing some or all of the $20 billion authorized for conservation and sustainable agriculture programs through the Inflation Reduction Act. That plan is a no-go for Democrats who insist those programs must remain. Democrats are also adamantly opposed to GOP efforts to cut funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

With no compromise on the horizon, there are already whispers that another farm bill extension could be on the horizon. The House and Senate have not released any farm bill legislation for consideration. Lawmakers also only have a few weeks to avoid the latest government shutdown deadlines.

Per last week’s continuing resolution, four appropriations bills are set to expire on Jan. 19. Those bills include funding for Agriculture, Rural Development and the Food and Drug Administration; Energy and Water Development; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development. 

The other eight appropriations bills will expire Feb. 2 if no additional action is taken. With so much Congressional time expected to be focused on appropriations, the farm bill may be put on the back burner again.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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