Farm bill text released in US House, setting up fight with Senate

By Michigan Advance

May 20, 2024

BY ARIANA FIGUEROA, MICHIGAN ADVANCE

MICHIGAN—The US House Agriculture Committee Friday released the draft bill text of the long-awaited $1.5 trillion farm bill, which is likely to face opposition in the Senate from Democrats due to disagreements over federal anti-hunger programs and climate change requirements.

The chair of the committee, GOP Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson of Pennsylvania, said in a statement that the bill, which will set farm, nutrition, commodity and conservation policy for the next five years, is a “product of extensive feedback from stakeholders and all Members of the House, and is responsive to the needs of farm country through the incorporation of hundreds of bipartisan policies.”

The legislation funds programs across 12 titles for five years.

It would boost rural farming, promote a new global market for farmers to sell their products abroad, require new reporting requirements for the foreign purchase of farmland, increase funding for specialty crops and expand eligibility for disaster assistance, among other initiatives.

“The markup is one step in a greater House process, that should not be compromised by misleading arguments, false narratives, or edicts from the Senate,” Thompson said.

The House Agriculture Committee plans to mark up the 942-page bill on Thursday. It is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years. A title-by-title summary can be found here.

In a statement, the top Democrat on the committee, Rep. David Scott of Georgia, slammed the draft bill for “taking food out of the mouths of America’s hungry children, restricting farmers from receiving the climate-smart conservation funding they so desperately need, and barring the USDA from providing financial assistance to farmers in times of crisis.”

Scott warned that the current draft bill is unlikely to pass the House. Although Republicans have a slim majority, any piece of legislation will have to be bipartisan in order to make it through the Senate, which Democrats control.

The current farm bill extension expires Sept. 30.

On the Senate side, Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat who leads the Committee on Agriculture, released Democrats’ own proposal in early May. Among other things, it would boost eligibility for nutrition programs for low-income people like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. Stabenow made public a summary of the bill, but not legislative text.

Scott and Stabenow released a joint statement Tuesday following a meeting with House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Democrats on the House Agriculture committee. They advocated for Republicans to craft a bipartisan farm bill.

“House Republicans are undermining this goal by proposing policies that split the broad, bipartisan coalition that has always been the foundation of a successful farm bill,” they wrote.

“We need a farm bill that holds the coalition together and upholds the historic tradition of providing food assistance to our most vulnerable Americans while keeping our commitment to our farmers battling the effects of the climate crisis every day,” they continued.

The House bill has a few provisions that Democrats oppose.

One would remove climate-smart policy requirements for about $13 billion in conservation projects funded by the Inflation Reduction Act. Another would limit future updates to the Thrifty Food Plan, the formula that calculates benefits for SNAP. “The economic impact of the SNAP cuts alone would be staggering,” Scott said.

A freeze in the Thrifty Food Plan would result in a roughly $30 billion SNAP cut over the next decade, according to the liberal-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. There are more than 41 million people who use SNAP benefits, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

However, the House farm bill would remove the ban on low-income Americans who have a drug conviction felony from obtaining SNAP benefits.

Environmental groups are also opposing the draft of the farm bill, raising concerns about reallocating IRA money and including a bill relating to how states regulate animal practices.

A watchdog group that focuses on government and corporate accountability in water, food and corporate overreach, Food & Water Watch Managing Director of Policy and Litigation Mitch Jones said in a statement that the draft bill would gut important climate-smart provisions.

“Some of leadership’s more dangerous proposals would take us backwards on animal welfare, and climate-smart agriculture,” Jones said. “It’s time Congress put the culture wars aside and got back to work on a Farm Bill that puts consumers, farmers, and the environment above politicking and Big Ag handouts.”

READ MORE: Stabenow unveils plan for ‘Rural Prosperity’ in new Farm Bill framework

This coverage was republished from Michigan Advance pursuant to a Creative Commons license.

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