Scott blames failed Republican leadership for farm bill impasse.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

December 14, 2023

2 Min Read
Representative David Scott speaking at microphone
Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff

As the House of Representatives headed home for the holidays, Agriculture Committee Chair David Scott fired a parting shot at Speaker Mike Johson. The Georgia Democrat says Johnson failed to begin farm bill negotiations with the Senate as he previously proposed.

“The failure of the House Republican leadership to support rural America was foreshadowed when they manufactured a debt default crisis, attempted to force a government shutdown, and then proposed an agriculture appropriations bill that was so damaging to rural development and research that it was voted down and then abandoned by their own Republican members,” Scott said in a Dec. 14 press release. “With no commitment from the House Republican leadership to find additional funds for the House Agriculture Committee’s efforts to improve the farm bill’s safety net, Chairman Thompson is forced to look at cutting other agriculture programs.”

On Oct. 23, Johnson shared a letter with Republican colleaguing laying his agenda if elected Speaker. Those plans included passing a farm bill in December and beginning negotiations with the Senate as soon as possible. By all accounts, that turned out to be nearly impossible given the current political climate.

With Republicans holding a razor-thin House majority, Johnson can only afford to lose a handful of GOP votes to pass any legislation without Democrat support. Hard-right Republicans have used this leverage to derail several legislative initiatives, including efforts to fund the Department of Agriculture.

Johnson could attempt crafting compromise legislation with Democrats, but that might imperil his Speakership. Previous Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out after crafting a September budget deal with Democrats to keep federal agencies running.

Johnson managed to avoid a shutdown in November by working out a second budget extension that created separate funding deadlines for various appropriations packages. This week, he also pushed through a Defense Department funding bill with considerable Democrat support. However, 73 Republicans voted against it, with many hardliners denouncing the bill because it did not include all of their priorities.

That doesn’t bode well for the farm bill. Of course, even if Johnson were to pass a bill that appeases all members of his party, it would face fierce opposition in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

For now, the best the new speaker has been able to do is craft an extension of the 2018 Farm Bill through next September.

Scott says the Democrats are willing to continue a bipartisan process to craft a new farm bill. However, he says they will not agree to cutting Inflation Reduction Act funding for conservation and energy, or cuts to nutrition programs.

Now that House members are off to their holiday break, there is next to no hope of a breakthrough before year’s end. As for 2024, the only certainly seems to be more uncertainty and lots of fighting. Happy New Year. Or maybe more like Groundhog Day.

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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