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Farm bill passes House ag committee via 33-21 vote
By Tim Alexander
Illinois Correspondent

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Republican-led farm policy legislation was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Agriculture, but contains several “non-starters” for most Democrats.
According to news sources, the committee’s $1.5 trillion spending package faces a tough road due to proposals that interfere with climate and food assistance funding. The bill cleared the House Committee on Agriculture through a contentious 33-21 vote on May 24. During the 14-hour hearing, Democratic amendments to mitigate Republican proposals around climate programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) failed along party lines.
“Despite areas of common ground, it is now clear that key parts of the House bill split the farm bill coalition in a way that makes it impossible to achieve the votes to become law,” said Debbie Stabenow, Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman, in a statement. “And it is also clear that we do not have time to waste on proposals that cannot meet that goal.”
AgricultureDive.com reported that the House proposal would move $27 billion from SNAP to trade promotion and specialty crop programs, while shifting close to $20 billion in Inflation Reduction Act funding for climate-smart agriculture to traditional conservation programs. It would also purportedly generate as much as $50 billion for commodity subsidy programs by suspending CCC discretionary spending power.
Among the Democrats’ pushbacks, the Congressional Budget Office has estimated savings from Republican-proposed CCC restrictions to be closer to $8 billion, rather than the estimated $50 billion. The Dem-led Senate indicated that the bill also crosses a red-line on food assistance and climate funding, and will be voted down. Specifically, Democrats are seeking to restore $27 billion in funding over 10 years to SNAP.
The issue of food aid “set off partisan fireworks at the contentious session, during which representatives from both sides of the aisle took to the dais to extol the virtues of bipartisanship while accusing their opposite numbers of throwing those values in the trash,” according to The Hill, a leading Washington news source.
“I served for 26 years in the United States military, oftentimes below the poverty level and using these programs,” Rep. Derrick Van Orden (R-Wis.) said, according to the Hill’s reporting. “So, I will not be lectured to by people who are saying that I’m trying to cut these benefits. It’s not true and it’s disingenuous.”
The House bill does address concerns from a number of agricultural industry groups by enhancing commodity programs for producers by an estimated $45 billion over 10 years. The bill would increase reference prices in the Price Loss Coverage (PLC), as well as increase coverage levels and payments under the Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program, Progressive Farmer noted.
House Ag Committee ranking member John Boozman commended the members of the committee “that voted in support of advancing legislation that is long overdue and will help ensure the vitality of farmers, ranchers and rural communities in spite of continued inflationary pressures and depressed market prices. This is the first real progress toward a new farm bill becoming law. My colleagues and I on the Republican side of the committee are committed to moving the process forward.”
American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall praised the House committee’s version of the farm bill, saying in a statement: “AFBF appreciates Chairman G.T. Thompson for his work in drafting a modernized farm bill, which we support. The Farm, Food, and National Security Act recognizes the challenges and opportunities facing America’s farmers and ranchers.
“Included in the House’s farm bill is a much-needed investment in the farm safety net, including making crop insurance more affordable, which will help farmers withstand inflation and supply costs that have outpaced current programs. New investments in specialty crop programs and research, along with preserving interstate commerce of agricultural products, will enable farmers to remain competitive in an ever-changing marketplace. Improvements to dairy programs will provide transparency, and more conservation resources will help farmers protect the resources they’ve been entrusted with. The farm bill also consists of important nutrition programs that help families facing hunger.”
Thompson said in an interview that his next step will be reaching out after the committee vote to talk to Stabenow and Republicans on her panel. “He said there’s a ‘serious commitment’ to complete the fiscal 2025 appropriations process before the House recess in August. Because of this, the next likely open spot for a farm bill floor vote is in September,” Agri-Pulse reported.
Stabenow has released a competing farm bill proposal championed by Democrats.
6/4/2024