Congress starts work on ag spending bill

Legislative Watch: Funding targeted towards core programs that help farmers; Top Senate Ag Republican unveils farm bill framework; Trade subcommittee reviews African pact.

Eric Bohl

June 14, 2024

4 Min Read
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On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee kicked off its consideration of the agriculture funding bill. The measure is one of 12 annual spending bills that fund discretionary aspects of federal government. It covers a wide swath of agencies, including USDA, the Food and Drug Administration, Commodities Futures Trading Commission, and the Farm Credit Administration.

This week’s action consisted of a markup by the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, which approved the bill by voice vote.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.), who serves as Chairman of the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said of the bill, “On a national level, this legislation reins in wasteful Washington spending and targets funding towards core programs that help America’s farmers, ranchers, and rural communities. On a local level, the bill also reins in the regulatory overreach of the Biden Administration that only adds to the higher costs of doing business and living in rural communities. This year, the Agriculture Appropriations bill also focuses on elevating the nutrition needs of SNAP participants by giving states a chance to participate in a pilot program that restricts unhealthy food. As we put this legislation forward, I want to thank my subcommittee staff for their tireless work, and I look forward to its passage on the House Floor.”

House Republicans have stated their intention to pass all 12 appropriations bills out of their chamber before the upcoming August recess. Meeting this deadline will be a major challenge, as only four weeks of session remain to pass 11 measures, and only three of those 11 have made their way through committee.

Top Senate Ag Republican unveils farm bill framework

In the wake of the House Agriculture Committee passing a draft farm bill, the top Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee has released an outline of his plans for a senate companion. On Tuesday, Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) unveiled a framework that he said was “answering the call to put more farm in the farm bill.” 

In a statement, Boozman said, “The world has changed dramatically since the 2018 bill became law, and the unprecedented challenges and economic uncertainty that farmers face now are only projected to get worse in the coming years. This is why producers have been calling on senators to put more farm in the farm bill. Our framework released today meets that call by modernizing the farm safety net, facilitating the expansion of access to overseas markets, fostering breakthroughs in agricultural research and growing the rural communities our farmers, ranchers and foresters call home – all while making a historic investment in conservation and protecting nutrition programs that help Americans in need.”

The proposal does not differ dramatically on major points from the version passed by the House committee, but Boozman did not release full legislative text. The 13-page summary does include some provisions not in the House bill. The most prominent such item is the Innovative FEED Act, which could improve and speed up the process of approving animal feed supplements. This could include additives to reduce methane emissions for animals, among other things. 

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has not released full text of a proposed farm bill, although she did issue a nearly 100-page summary in May. In comments over the past several weeks, Stabenow has indicated she is not currently planning to mark up a farm bill this summer, instead preferring to continue negotiating and discussing behind the scenes.

Trade subcommittee reviews African pact

The House committee overseeing trade legislation discussed its efforts to reauthorize the African Growth and Opportunity Act in a hearing Wednesday. The Trade Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee heard from four witnesses about the benefits and challenges AGOA provides.

At the hearing, Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith (R-Mo.) said, “The AGOA program has a successful track record of encouraging economic development in sub-Saharan Africa and greater access for U.S. agriculture products in that region – something I’ve watched closely over the years having attended an AGOA forum in Gabon back in 2015. Under the program, American taxpayers have invested over $8 billion in trade-related activities in Africa over the past 20-plus years. Reauthorizing AGOA will ensure American taxpayers get a positive return on their investment. It will also strengthen our economic relationship by making sure access to African markets for American exports, especially agriculture, is fair and our trade relationships benefit American workers, farmers, and businesses.”

AGOA was first passed by Congress in 2000 for a 15-year term and was extended an additional 10 years through 2025. It aims to promote sub-Saharan African economies and improve economic ties with the U.S. President Biden and members of Congress have expressed concerns over allowing some countries with poor human rights track records to continue participating, including Uganda, the Central African Republic, Niger and Gabon.

About the Author(s)

Eric Bohl

Eric Bohl is an agricultural policy leader with extensive experience on Capitol Hill. He served six years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Jason Smith (R-MO) and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), and previously served as Legislative Director to Rep. Hartzler. During that time, he led her work on the House Agriculture Committee and was influential in efforts to craft the 2014 Farm Bill, as well as handling environmental, energy, transportation and infrastructure, and agricultural trade issues.

Eric’s experience starts at the ground level. His family has deep roots in both animal and row-crop farming going back several generations. This understanding of the unique challenges real farmers face brings valuable perspective to help solve clients’ needs. His midwestern values also allow him to build meaningful relationships with people on both sides of the political aisle and find common-sense solutions that transcend partisan lines.

This approach has continued to be the cornerstone of Eric’s career in grassroots advocacy. He served more than five years as Director of Public Affairs and Advocacy for Missouri Farm Bureau. He was a senior member of the organization’s legislative team and led communications and coalition advocacy efforts, including on the 2018 Farm Bill. His writings on agriculture and rural policy have been published in newspapers across the nation. He serves as First Vice President of the St. Louis Agribusiness Club and is a board member of the Agricultural Business Council of Kansas City, two of the nation’s largest and strongest organizations supporting agribusinesses.

Before his career in public policy, Eric was a practicing attorney for nearly five years, focusing on real estate and agricultural law, commercial transactions, and commercial litigation. Eric earned undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Missouri, graduating from both programs with honors, and served as the Managing Editor of the Missouri Law Review.

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