House Democrats lay out farm bill principles

Legislative Watch: Opposition to cut Inflation Reduction Act funding; bipartisan ag trade caucus launches; bill to expand rural workforce training introduced.

Eric Bohl

February 9, 2024

4 Min Read
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Despite months of negotiations and discussions, the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have not yet released proposed farm bill text. This week, the lead Democrat on the House committee issued a statement of principles that he expects his party to follow as the process moves forward.

The memorandum, released publicly by Ranking Member Rep. David Scott (D-Ga.), speaks in high-level terms and does not discuss specific dollar amounts for programs. According to the document, to gain Democratic support, a “strong, effective and bipartisan farm bill” must reduce hunger, invest in sustainable agriculture, revitalize rural America, lower costs for farmers and families, improve equity and support renewables and bioenergy.

“House Democrats will oppose any attempt to take food away from hungry Americans, including our Nation’s vulnerable children, seniors, people with disabilities, and veterans,” Scott says in the memorandum. He also states that his party will not support a farm bill that takes Inflation Reduction Act funding away from its current purposes, including conservation and renewable energy. 

Bipartisan ag trade caucus launches on Capitol Hill

A group of agriculture-focused lawmakers recently launched the bipartisan Congressional Agricultural Trade Caucus. The group’s goal is “to advance and promote policies vital to U.S. agriculture, including boosting agricultural exports, facilitating food and agriculture trade, and knocking down unnecessary trade barriers.” According to a press release, the group plans to “support education and engagement opportunities for members of Congress to promote policies which boost international competitiveness, increase market access, address non-tariff barriers to trade, improve supply chains, and reestablish U.S. global leadership on trade.”

The four inaugural members of the caucus are House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Trade Chairman Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) and member Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.); Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodity Markets, Digital Assets, and Rural Development Chairman Dusty Johnson (R-S.D.); and Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy, and Poultry Ranking Member Jim Costa (D-Calif.).

“American agriculture producers have the capacity to feed and fuel the world, and robust engagement on trade opportunities is vital to unleashing this potential,” said Rep. Smith. “Increasing—and maintaining—market access for our first-class products through rules-based trade strengthens our economy, increases economic security with our allies, and benefits consumers worldwide.”

“Representing the breadbasket of the world, access to global markets is critical to our economy,” said Rep. Costa. “As Co-Chair of the Agricultural Trade Caucus, I look forward to working together to promote trade policies that will ensure American farmers remain competitive on the global stage.”

Bill to expand rural workforce training introduced

A broad, bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced legislation meant to address the skills gap and workforce shortage in rural communities. The Creating Access to Rural Employment and Education for Resilience and Success (CAREERS) Act, H.R. 7015, was introduced by Rep. Nick Langworthy (R-N.Y.) and co-led by Rep. Jill Tokuda (D-Hawaii). Nearly 30 members of the House have cosponsored the bill.

The CAREERS Act would allow the Secretary of Agriculture to award grants of up to $2 million each to support career pathway programs or industry or sector partnerships in key industry sectors. These could include public utilities like telecommunications, broadband, water, wastewater, disposal, and electric supply services, conservation practices and management, health care, child care, manufacturing, agribusiness and others.

“Many businesses in rural areas, like those I represent in Western New York and the Southern Tier, are facing a challenge in finding skilled workers — resulting in too many vacancies and too few applicants,” said Rep. Langworthy. “The CAREERS Act aims to close the skills gap by investing in pathway training programs and creating meaningful partnerships with private sector stakeholders across sectors — from manufacturing to healthcare. If enacted, this legislation will work to bolster rural economies and innovation, making them more competitive and sustainable well into the future.”

“Hawai‘i has one of the highest costs of living in the country, which means that too many of our people are getting priced out of paradise,” said Tokuda. “We need sustainable career pathways that lead to well-paying jobs that make it possible for our people to work, live, and thrive in rural and remote America. … By providing grants in key sectors such as public utilities, child care, agriculture, health care, manufacturing, and more, we will strengthen rural America’s ability to support and uplift their communities and our nation as a whole.”

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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