House Agriculture chairman Glenn Thompson declared, “I am at the table” to write the new farm bill — with multibillion-dollar cuts already rejected by Democrats on the committee. “I hope my colleagues across the aisle join me,” said Thompson, as farm bill leaders clashed over the direction of the moribund legislation.
Thompson insisted on “reinvestment” of SNAP and climate funds into crop subsidies and land stewardship programs in an essay published on Friday. Two days earlier, Georgia Rep. David Scott, the senior Democrat on the committee, said the combined cuts of more than $45 billion were unacceptable, as were proposed restrictions on Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s access to a USDA reserve fund.
Vilsack was scheduled to testify on rural and farm issues on Wednesday at the House Agriculture Committee’s first formal meeting since Dec. 6.
Senate Agriculture chairwoman Debbie Stabenow urged farm-state lawmakers last week to take advantage of a Senate offer of billions of dollars in new resources and write the farm bill now. The senior Republican on the panel, Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas, is working on a farm bill framework. “We still plan to make it public in coming weeks,” said a spokesman.
Farm bill discussions have been in the hands of the four leaders of the Senate and House Agriculture committees for months without resolution. Neither committee has released a first-round draft. “I am the only one who has put forth an actual plan to move a farm bill,” said Thompson. He circulated, but did not release, an outline last October that contained the same major proposals that were listed in Friday’s essay. Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee rejected immediately the October outline. They issued a set of principles last week that opposed cuts in SNAP and climate funding.
Congressional Republicans uniformly opposed the 2022 climate, health, and tax law and seemingly want to strip for other purposes the $20 billion it earmarked for climate mitigation through USDA conservation programs. Some lawmakers say the money could be used to pay for higher reference prices, a priority of farm groups. Thompson said it “should be refocused” so farmers “make local decisions that work for them” on soil and water conservation. He also called for “significant new investment” of money into the farm bill.
Farm-state lawmakers were unable to agree on a successor before the 2018 farm bill expired last Sept. 30, so Congress extended its life by one year. The new farm bill may not be enacted until 2025 due to ongoing disagreements over funding the government in an increasing do-nothing Congress, said two analysts. The last time a farm bill was completed on time was 2002.