Editorial

House and Senate Versions of the Farm Bill Released

05/09/2024

During the first week of May, the House Agriculture Committee and the equivalent Senate Committee released their respective summary versions of the much-delayed Farm Bill.

 

The House version transfers funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to land conservation.  The House version also increased commodity support for row crops, sugar and dairy sectors.

 

Funding for the Market Access Program and the Foreign Market Development Program were increased. 

 

The Senate Agriculture Committee chaired by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) entitled their bill the Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act.  The bill includes provisions relating to support for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, establishes an Office of the Special Investigative Competition Matters and strengthen implementation of the Packers’ and Stockyards Act.

 

Progress on the respective and House and Senate versions of the Farm Bill has been keenly followed by Associations and Councils representing crop and livestock associations.  Elizabeth Cradock and colleagues at law firm Holland and Knight LLP summarized the most important provisions of the delayed Farm Bill noting the reasons for delay.  Although the Farm Bill is usually a bipartisan endeavor, polarization in both chambers and their respective slim margins have created difficulties in achieving consensus.  The Democratic members of both committees were averse to reducing SNAP funding after large increases during the COVID years.  Republican members have favored increases in reference prices for commodities and strengthening crop insurance.  There is a growing realization that the Farm Bill along with other legislation is contributing to an unacceptable national debt. Negotiation to achieve a compromise will be impeded in a politically charged Congressional environment especially in a highly contentious election year.

 

It is anticipated that the House version will be marked up prior to the Memorial Day deadline.  This version will increase reference prices for commodity crops, offset by restrictions on Commodity Credit Corporation funding for purposes including climate mitigation and conservation.  House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson (R-PA) considers that climate-related programs should be at the state level. In responding to constituents and association requests, funding for the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program will be increased.  This funding does not however guarantee increased exports that are waning in response to increased competition in world markets and decreased demand by China.  Promotional activities under the two programs may benefit minority products but it is doubtful whether increased funding will move the needle on soybeans and corn.  Exports of poultry and now beef will be impacted by disease.

 

According to majority staff, the House Committee identified savings from the Thrifty Food Plan that can be applied to expanding both households and per-person benefits, coupled with tweaking of allowable products.

 

It is anticipated that the House version will pass, allowing the Senate to then act on their version and proceed to reconciliation during the Congressional recess. We can hope for enactment during the fourth quarter.  The current Farm Bill that was extended from September 2023 will require a second extension to allow time for the reconciliation process.  Both parties have equal incentives to enact a Farm Bill in 2024.  Failure to do so would pass the responsibility to the 119th Congress with a possible switch in majorities in the House and Senate committees respectively.

 


 
 
Copyright © 2024 Simon M. Shane