Senate passes agriculture appropriations billSenate passes agriculture appropriations bill
Legislative Watch: House Agriculture-FDA bill still faces challenges; farm bill extension gaining support; $5 billion in ag and rural funding.
November 3, 2023
More than a month after the new fiscal year began, the Senate passed its first appropriations bills on Wednesday. In a broad bipartisan vote of 82-15, the chamber packaged together three of the 12 annual appropriations measures in a so-called “minibus.” The Agriculture-FDA bill was joined with bills funding the departments of Veterans Affairs, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, typically some of the least controversial measures.
After the vote, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said, “We just passed a strong, bipartisan spending package – the only bipartisan spending bills in Congress, by the way – and we did it with an 82-15 vote. So let’s be crystal clear about what that means. Unlike the funding measures we’ve seen pushed through the House, these are serious and reasonable, bipartisan bills that can actually be signed into law. They are the product of months of hard work, careful negotiation, thoughtful input from members on both sides of the aisle.”
The package will now be forwarded to the House, which has been working its way through its own set of spending bills. Since new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) was sworn in last week, the chamber has passed three individual appropriations bills covering the legislative branch, energy and water issues, and environmental issues and the Department of the Interior. However, the House version of the Agriculture-FDA bill still faces major challenges, as members strongly disagree over its funding levels and abortion policy.
Push for farm bill extension gaining support
The 2018 farm bill expired Sept. 30, but Congress has yet to pass either an extension or a successor bill. This may soon change, as agriculture policy leaders are rumored to be eyeing passage of a one-year extension in the next two weeks.
Government funding is currently operating under a continuing resolution that expires Nov. 17. With both the House and Senate remaining far apart on spending levels, a further continuing resolution is all but certain and will likely extend funding through mid-January.
New Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.) has called for a new farm bill to be passed by the House in early December. However, sources close to the House Agriculture Committee say behind-the-scenes negotiations are not in a place to meet that deadline.
On Thursday, Agri-Pulse reported that Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-Ark.) are working to insert a full-year farm bill extension into the upcoming continuing resolution. A full-year extension would place the deadline for a five-year bill in the middle of Congress’s 2024 lame duck session, between the Presidential election and the inauguration.
The outlet also reported that House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Penn.) expressed concerns that a year-long extension could delay work on the bill.
“I’m OK with a year. My concern with the Senate is that they don’t have to do anything until the year is up,” Thompson said. If a full-year extension occurred, he said he would want to ensure the committees are “still leaning in and doing our job.”
Biden announces $5 billion in ag and rural funding
To kick off an administration-wide rural outreach effort, this week President Biden announced $5 billion in federal spending for agriculture and rural issues. During an event at a farm near Northfield, Minnesota, Biden highlighted concerns with concentration in the beef, pork and poultry industries and expressed support for small family-owned livestock operations.
“When rural America does well, when Indian country does well, we all do well,” Biden said. “Because of these investments we’re making, family farms are going to stay in the family,”
The $5 billion package includes $1.7 billion for “climate-smart agriculture” practices. Over a billion dollars of that funding will be in the form of 81 Regional Conservation Partnership Program grants. This program uses a voluntary approach to expand conservation efforts through public-private partnerships. An additional $274 million will be devoted to expanding high-speed internet infrastructure.
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