The 2023 farm bill is expected to be the most expensive ever but Congress will need additional funding to strengthen the farm and food safety nets, said the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee. In a letter, Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow and Republican John Boozman said additional funding would allow a transition away from the repeated bailouts that have cost more than $90 billion since 2018.
Stabenow and Boozman also asked the Senate Budget Committee for a reserve fund “to provide budget flexibility should our spending authority be increased.” The “budget views” letter, transmitted last week, did not say how large the reserve should be.
“The committee recently completed a series of hearings on the 12 titles of the farm bill and through this process, it became clear that additional resources will be necessary to strengthen our farm and food safety nets,” said the letter.
A month ago, the House Agriculture Committee said in a similar letter to the House Budget Committee that “we believe additional resources will be necessary to enact a strong farm bill in 2023.”
According to the Congressional Budget Office estimates, farm bill spending would total $1.5 trillion over the the next decade if are no changes in policy.
But farm groups seek higher reference prices, a key factor in calculating crop subsidies, and an expanded crop insurance program. House Republicans want to cut SNAP outlays by making more people subject to a 90-day limit on benefits. And farm-state lawmakers argue the farm program would run more smoothly and fewer stop-gap payments would be necessary if some of the money spent on so-called ad hoc assistance were moved into always-available commodity supports. The big items in emergency farm spending since 2018 were trade war, pandemic relief and natural disaster payments.
Farm groups are seeking additional funding at the same time congressional Republicans want to reduce federal spending.
“A commitment to additional financial resources for the farm bill will help to transition our farm and food supplies away from ad hoc support,” said Stabenow and Boozman. “The farm bill provides an opportunity to increase support for foreign market development and market access programs to help U.S. farmers and agribusinesses meet the needs of the hungry domestically and abroad.”
The House Agriculture Committee supported larger funding for export programs in its letter too. It also said the $20 billion given to USDA for climate mitigation might be used to “address other related funding concerns within the farm bill.” The Senate letter was silent on that idea.