October 27, 2023
The U.S. House of Representatives plans to take up and pass the farm bill in December, new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) said in a letter sent to colleagues on Monday. After passage, he expects to begin negotiations “as soon as possible” once the Senate passes its own version. The letter, first reported by Politico, also lays out plans for passing appropriations bills and other legislative priorities over the coming 14 months.
The Agriculture-FDA appropriations bill has faced significant opposition in the House over the past several months, even failing in a September floor vote. In his letter, Johnson proposed forming a working group “to address Member concerns” with the bill before bringing it to the floor the week before Thanksgiving. If all of the appropriations bills are not completed prior to the current Nov. 17 funding deadline, Speaker Johnson said he would support extending current funding levels to either Jan. 15 or April 15.
Johnson, who won a long battle for the gavel on Wednesday with a 220-209 vote, has served in the House since 2017. He is a past chairman of the Republican Study Committee, the largest conservative coalition in the House, and serves on the Judiciary Committee and Armed Services Committee. Many analysts believe he has the most conservative voting record of any Speaker in modern times.
Proposed farm bill cuts met with strong opposition
All 24 Democratic members of the House Agriculture Committee sent a letter this week to Chairman Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R-Penn.) and Ranking Member David Scott (D-Ga.) imploring them not to redirect conservation funds from last year’s Inflation Reduction Act to a new farm bill. The letter was led by Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Nikki Budzinski (D-Ill.).
The letter states, “The Inflation Reduction Act conservation funding will make an historic investment in farmers from all regions and give them the resources needed to adapt to and mitigate climate change. The evidence is clear that these investments are necessary and in demand.”
The move came in the wake of a leaked list of potential sources of revenue Thompson is considering using to fund his desired changes in the farm bill. The proposed changes would include clawing back funds from the IRA and changes to nutrition programs. Immediately after the list was made public, Democrats began forcefully rejecting its contents.
“The Inflation Reduction Act was intended to go towards climate smart conservation, and it would ultimately be a disservice to American farmers should these funds go elsewhere,” the authors state. “We implore you to keep the funds for their intended purpose and provide the resources farmers need.”
USDA lays out details of export promotion program
In a move that had been expected for several weeks, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week that he is committing $1.3 billion to a trade promotion program. The money will come from the Commodity Credit Corporation, a fund used by USDA to support American farm commodities. The announcement came in response to a bipartisan request from the Chairwoman and Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee for USDA to provide assistance for trade promotion.
“This will complement existing trade promotion programs as we await Congress’s action on both the budget and the farm bill,” Vilsack said. “We continue to look for ways in which we can increase trade opportunities for U.S. agriculture, especially because of the strength of the U.S. economy and the difficulties experienced in the global economy. We now find ourselves with unusual trade deficits in agricultural products.”
The U.S. Meat Export Federation supported the announcement, stating, “The USDA Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program have a proven track record of providing excellent, value-added returns to U.S. producers, and more recently the Agricultural Trade Promotion Program helped U.S. agriculture overcome trade obstacles and develop new markets. With ATP funding coming to the end, new investments in foreign market development are very timely and much appreciated.”
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