Lawmakers are setting their priorities for the 2023 farm bill: NPR
Lawmakers drank condensed milk shakes brought to them by the Pennsylvania Dairy Farmers’ Association as they listened to farmers, ranchers and community leaders from across the state talk about the need and their wishes for the 2023 farm bill.
The Pennsylvania Farm Show in Harrisburg served as the perfect opening for House Agriculture Committee Chairman GT Thompson to begin discussing funding for multiple parts of the food supply chain and agricultural development. American village.
“We’re working in a time of crisis here,” Thompson said to open the hearing on January 13. “This is an important industry, not just for us who live in the countryside. This is perhaps the most important industry in the sense that it touches the lives of every American family more every day than any other industry.”
The five-yearly code is a mess of policies. The bill consists of many headings – 12 to be exact – which combine to form what has been called the largest safety net for American farmers.
However, the short time and infighting among Republicans in the House are raising questions about the feasibility of passing a major bill in time.
Meanwhile, mayors, crop groups, labor advocates, utility companies, etc. are scrambling for their piece of the farm bill pie before the bill’s September expiration date 2018.
One such group is the Employment Opportunity Center. Headquartered in Harrisburg, CEO is the largest nonprofit that pays for the training of individuals who have been incarcerated across 12 states. The organization serves approximately 600,000 people each year.
Kia Hansard, program director at CEO, came to the hearing hoping lawmakers would take the opportunity to see that the bill extends beyond animals and crops.
The biggest part of the bill is the nutrition header. It accounts for about 80% of bill spending and helps manage nutritional assistance programs, such as food stamps. While nutrition programs are funded through regular budget bills, the farm bill helps set the rules for how the programs work and who qualifies.
Hansard argued that the farm bill of 2023 would increase investment in what is known as “SNAP Jobs and Training.” program allows SNAP recipients receive job training, transportation, and child care and subsidized clothing when participants find work.
Hansard also asked lawmakers to remove SNAP Employment and Training wages from eligibility for SNAP.
Currently, Hansard said, ‘income’ received from the Employment and Training program for study and training is being counted as income for SNAP eligibility.
“Essentially, substantially reducing their benefits or removing individuals from SNAP because they receive income from the SNAP E&T program itself,” Hansard said in his testimony before lawmakers. “Participants are then faced with a choice between getting the training and skills needed to ensure their long-term success or staying secure to simply be able to support themselves in the future.” short time.”
But there are more sponsorship combinations than nutrition.
“It’s a good name: The Farm Bill. And obviously there are programs that benefit farmers, but you don’t have to be a farmer to be interested in a farm bill,” said Dennis Nuxoll. , said Western Growers vice president of government affairs. , a farmer advocacy group. “You can live in a rural community and become a librarian. And in the farm bill, there are programs your small town approaches to build the library where you work and some facilities. your town’s infrastructure. You’re a librarian, you’re not really developing anything.”
Key points of negotiation:
While there are 12 headings on the farm bill, here are the sections most likely to get the most attention outside of nutrition:
Crop insurance: Elizabeth Hinkel, president of Pennsylvania Corn Growers, testified during the farm show hearing about the need to make crop insurance more accessible. About 45% of the corn acreage in the state is not insured, so farmers will have to bear the costs if their crops fail due to climate or other disasters.
Hinkle told NPR that part of the crop insurance is funded by the farm bill. She hopes lawmakers can make it more affordable for farmers to sign up for the programs.
Rural development: The Department of Agriculture is the only federal agency with a clear mandate to implement programs that help develop rural areas. This includes grants to build hospitals, schools, traditional infrastructure, and utility services.
Study: The farm bill could allocate dollars to fund research at colleges, universities, and public and private institutions. This could include research into how to best grow food, making crops more resistant to drought and heat, and creating artificial intelligence machines to work on crops. .
Conserve: The conservation title has received a significant boost from recent efforts by Congress to invest in climate change mitigation efforts. However, lawmakers have long pushed to make sure the programs are voluntary and not mandatory for manufacturers. However, many say the programs are over-subscribed with more demand for participation than incentives to give.
Senate leaders have their own priorities ready.
Lawmakers and stakeholders are coming up with their own wish lists.
House ratings member David Scott outlined his priorities in January including expanding rural broadband, adding $100 million in funding to the College and University Student Scholarship Program. The 1890 African-American Land Grant and increased assistance to farmers who wanted to participate in the USDA’s conservation programs.
Senate President Debbie Stabenow led negotiations on the 2014 and 2018 farm bills. Stabenow announced earlier this year that she would not be running for re-election in the 2024 election cycle, making her political This farm bill becomes her final bill. And she has climate on her mind.
“One of the biggest risks facing (farmers) today is related to the climate crisis,” said Stabenow. “This is the largest conservation investment in land and water conservation that we make as a nation. So it’s so important to our quality of life and to our hopes. will be able to get the bipartisan support we need to get it done.”
Both Stabenow and senior member John Boozman wanted to look at the structure of disaster relief programs for manufacturers hardest hit by disasters.
Boozman noted that Congress was able to allocate disaster relief funds appropriately as needed, but he said the problem with spending was that it was infrequent.
“It’s something that Congress has to get in and fight for to get dollars for the specific area that has been impacted,” Boozman said. “Another problem we have is that once Congress passes all the mechanisms that they have to do to allocate money, it takes a long time. Then the program has to be set up. Once you have a disaster in your area, it could be two years before you get your compensation”
He also said he is looking to invest more in programs to deliver broadband to rural areas and look at spending on nutrition.
Money money money
The topic of funding for the bill looms large. Agriculture, climate and development groups are calling for increased dollars for their respective programs. When asked where he would find the money to buy it, Thompson said he “didn’t know.”
But he credited the US Rescue Plan, the 2020 pandemic relief bill, and the Democrats’ mediation package for providing funds that previous farm bills did not have as a source of funding. resources.
Stabenow, who advocates parts of the reconciliation package that added a historic $20 billion to voluntary conservation programs, agrees that this improves the base on how much legislators have to work with.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty’s photo
A looming deadline for a divided congress
The House got off to a rough start with 20 members of the Republican convention voting against the election of Representative Kevin McCarthy as Speaker. Among them was Illinois Representative Mary Miller, a member of the agriculture committee, who was also present at the event in Pennsylvania.
However, Thompson was not worried. He argued that political differences in the negotiations over the farm bill had less to do with partisan lines and more about geographic and industry divisions.
But there have been signs of resistance. The conservative Republican Research Committee’s proposed 2023 budget released late last year proposing to remove the nutrition title from farm bills — a move that was debunked by Thompson and other Republicans. But the group also has other proposals including phasing out the sugar program and the federal dairy subsidy programs.
In 2018, Freedom Caucus rejected the ranch bill in immigration negotiations.
“There can be some partisan moves at times. But at the end of the day, when the final votes on the farm bill come in, it’s a bipartisan farm bill,” Thompson said. “And my goal was to keep it that way from the start.”