What’s the Latest on the Farm Bill?

(WASHINGTON D.C.)– Many in agriculture are wondering when or if a new five year Farm Bill will get done in 2024. As Congress is on its President’s Day recess, new government shutdown deadlines loom ahead on March 1st and March 7th as both the House and Senate continue to work to pass appropriations bills to fully fund the U.S. government.

Appropriations battles, issues such as aid to Ukraine, aid to Israel, the southern border and more are some of the roadblocks that stand in the way of a new five year Farm Bill.

And disagreements over parts of a new Farm Bill itself have many in agriculture starting to wonder if a new five year legislation will be able to get passed ahead of the 2024 Presidential election or if another one year extension of the 2018 legislation will be needed. One of the biggest areas of discussion is finding a way to pay for a new five year Farm Bill and the back and forth over ag and nutrition programs.

Top House Ag Democrat David Scott (D-GA) recently said regarding the SNAP program that “Because the economy has improved, benefits and need for the program have decreased. The CBO is now expecting SNAP to cost 67 billion dollars less, over the next decade, than originally expected.”

If that savings number is correct from the Congressional Budget Office, some say that could lead to an end of the current stalemate on getting a new five year Farm Bill finished.

House Ag Chair GT Thompson (R-PA) recently said in terms of SNAP as well that “Considerable opportunities exist within our jurisdiction to not only fund the safety net but fund a substantial number of shared bipartisan priorities. And I continue to implore my Democratic colleagues to think in earnest about these priorities – priorities that can be funded without cutting SNAP, a SNAP benefit, or eliminating the important conservation programs that we’ve all come to appreciate.”

In terms of Thompson’s current plan, it ties in with what is called the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), which is what determines a household’s SNAP benefit. The TFP was updated for decades on a cost-neutral basis but that calculation seemingly stopped some time right around when COVID benefits ended and some say that is what has led to a huge expansion of the SNAP program.

Chairman Thompson’s plan has been said to put modest guardrails on the TFP update and return it to a cost-neutral calculation. With some of these internal moves, the CBO has estimated it could free up some $30 billion without anyone’s benefits being impacted.

The questions remains, can moves such as that be enough to bring about a bipartisan resolution to the Farm Bill? Some lawmakers in both the House and Senate have coined the term that there “is not enough farm in the farm bill” but with ag and nutrition so closely tied together, one has to hope that a bipartisan compromise can be found soon.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack said recently that “The failure to have a farm bill creates uncertainty, and that uncertainty makes it very difficult for producers to make decisions about their operations…to decide, whether or not, they’re going to diversify their crop. It’s difficult for the Chamber of Commerce and economic development offices across the counties to know whether or not, they need to plan for new opportunities. I mean the bottom line is, we’ve got to get it done.”

This story is an update to a previously published story on Tuesday, February 20th from the NAFB News Service that can be found here: https://americanagnetwork.com/2024/02/house-ag-leaders-hint-the-farm-bill-logjam-can-be-broken/

***Parts of the reporting in this story, including the Vilsack and lawmakers quotes, are attributed to the NAFB News Service and Matt Kaye, Berns Bureau Washington***