Right-wing extremists among House Republicans are seeking a one-sided farm bill when it is time for serious negotiations and compromise, said Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday. “Our bipartisanship is in need of a big lift,” said Georgia Rep. David Scott, the senior Democrat on the committee.
Congress is more than four months late in delivering a new farm bill due to impasses over crop subsidies, climate funding, and SNAP cuts. Farm groups and their allies in Congress want higher reference prices, which would make it easier to trigger subsidy payments, but they have not spelled out in public how large an increase they seek or how they would pay for it. Climate funding is the most obvious target.
Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee released a two-page list of farm bill principles on Wednesday: “These principles lay out a clear-cut, no-nonsense path to a bipartisan farm bill,” said Rep. Andrea Salinas, Oregon Democrat. Foremost were no cuts in SNAP, climate, or clean-energy funding, along with broader access to crop insurance, improved internet access, lower input costs, and increased market transparency.
“We need to get this done,” said Rep. Shontel Brown, Ohio Democrat. “Republicans are going to need Democratic votes (to pass the farm bill), so let’s get together and do what’s right.” Brown also said reference prices “do need to be increased but not at the expense of nutrition” programs.
“Unfortunately, bipartisanship has fallen victim to the right-wing extremists who are currently dominating the House Republican caucus,” said Scott during a digital news conference, although he said he has an excellent working relationship with House Agriculture chairman Glenn Thompson.
“There’s no way…we’re going to allow $30 billion dollars [to be cut] from SNAP” by handcuffing calculations of the cost of a healthy diet, said Scott. “None of the Democrats on this committee are going to accept that.” Republicans want to empty a $15.5 billion climate account and use half of it to increase reference prices “while doing little to nothing for our small family farmers, minority farmers, and our specialty crop farmers,” said the Georgia Democrat.
Senate Agriculture chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said she was throwing out farm bill ideas, such as higher crop insurance coverage as an alternative to traditional crop subsidies, in hopes of igniting progress on the legislation. “We’re not where I think we ought to be here in terms of negotiating the bill,” said the Michigan Democrat in an interview with DTN/Progressive Farmer. Like Scott in the House, Stabenow said that for success, both parties must agree on the contents of the farm bill, “which means there are certain red lines on both sides.”
Farmers taking part in a Purdue University poll said crop insurance and interest rates would be the most important issues for them over the next five years, well ahead of climate, environment, conservation, energy, or immigration policies.
The list of farm bill principles is embargoed until 5 a.m. ET.