Farm Bill Talks Appear Stalemated

After months of fruitless efforts, farm bill talks appear to have reached a stalemate. Neither side is budging in the Senate, and no floor action is scheduled in the spending bill-consumed House despite a committee-passed farm bill ready for action.

Bluntly put, the votes aren’t there, and neither is the money.

“It is virtually impossible to create a robust and resilient farm safety net without significant investment,” said House Ag Chair GT Thompson in an earlier comment foreshadowed the farm bill’s “headwinds” he warned of political obstacles over repurposing SNAP and CCC savings, not to mention overshooting budget estimates.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack also pointed to the difficulty of boosting the farm safety net with limited resources and the danger of not having a new farm bill. Vilsack says, “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, or to decide whether or not they’re going to take advantage of new crop insurance. By the way, we’ve had 12 new policies and 50 new modifications to crop insurance just in the last three years.”

Bottom line, Vilsack says “We’ve got to get it done.” But American Farm Bureau’s Joe Gilson said this month that AFB was already hearing talk of another “extension”. According to Gilson, “There are still some stark differences between what Senator Boozman has put out and what Chair Stabenow has released. So, right now, we just need to see a lot of leadership in the Senate.”

But Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow consistently says she won’t support a farm bill that reduces SNAP benefits, while Boozman and Republicans insist there must be “more farm in the farm bill.” And more Senators on both sides now say they’d rather wait until after the election to pass a five-year bill.

Story by Matt Kaye/Berns Bureau, courtesy of NAFB News Service