The Farm Bill is a huge, complex piece of legislation (as our Farm Bill 101 makes clear) and its path through Congress will be filled with twists and turns. We’re closely following this journey, looking at how the proposed bills in the House and Senate will impact farmers, eaters, and residents of rural communities. Over the coming months, Farm Aid will keep this post updated with the latest news on the Farm Bill and opportunities to speak up to improve it.
February 22, 2024
Appropriations drag, Farm Bill progress lags
Since passing yet another set of continuing resolutions that keep the government funded through March 1st, Congress has kept dragging out the appropriations process. At this point, the passage of appropriations bills has taken so long that they’re starting to butt up against 2025 fiscal year budget-setting. What’s the hold-up? Spending levels are largely ironed out, so it’s the inclusion of policy riders, like the harmful rider that House Republicans and special interests included on the House FY 2024 Agriculture and FDA bill, that remain the primary hurdles. Failure to find agreement by March 1st will either force a partial government shutdown or necessitate yet another continuing resolution.
Once again, the dragging out of appropriations is leaving little room for Farm Bill progress and is shortening the window for action in March. Coupled with a very tight congressional calendar – Congress is in session March 11th through June 28th before summer break – there’s effectively only a late-spring window of several weeks to bring to the floor, debate, and pass the next Farm Bill. Though much of the Farm Bill is currently drafted, it is far from finished and money is the main barrier in continued progress. Namely, Republicans and Democrats are dug in on their respective priorities: commodity programs versus Inflation Reduction Act funding and nutrition programs. Policy experts guess that if Congress doesn’t pass a Farm Bill before the end of June, we’ll likely see it kicked down the road until after the 2024 elections.
January 9, 2024
New year, same problems?
Congress is back in session for the new year, facing the same challenges they left before heading on break in December. Namely, a partial government shutdown could happen as of January 20th if the House and Senate can’t agree on spending for the 2024 fiscal year.
As of January 7th, congressional leaders had agreed on an overall budget for funding the government; now they must write the legislation required to fund different government agencies, including the USDA. If Congress can’t agree on these individual appropriations packages and instead choose to pass a continuing resolution, as happened in November, many government agencies will see funding cuts.
Democratic leadership has indicated that it will stand fast in opposing any harmful policy riders, while far-right GOP members expressed outrage at the topline budget agreement, meaning that negotiations will continue to be fraught. Congress has less than two weeks to pass four appropriations bills. As these budget negotiations continue, progress on the next farm bill remains stagnant, with a best-case scenario for the bill’s introduction in March.
November 16, 2023
Congress passes Farm Bill extension
On November 15th, the Senate voted to pass a House bill for a continuing resolution, which included an extension of the 2018 Farm Bill. The bill extends the farm bill through September 2024. President Biden is expected to sign the bill into law.
This bill not only averts a government shutdown, but also includes funding for almost all “orphan” programs that would have otherwise lost funding as of January 1st. The extension gives Congress an additional 10 months to pass a new farm bill. Despite this longer runway, there is still lots to be negotiated. Legislators still need to decide how IRA funding will be distributed as well as funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), two extremely contentious issues. It’s expected that Congress will use this extension to present a draft of a new farm bill early next year.
November 14, 2023
Congress poised to extend 2018 Farm Bill
The 2018 farm bill expired on September 30th, meaning as of October 1st, many programs lost funding and/or legal authorization to operate. The full effects of the expired bill will be felt on January 1st, 2024 unless an extension or new legislation is passed. Between a dragged out appropriations process and a prolonged struggle to determine House leadership, Congress has had little time to make headway on the next farm bill.
In October, Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow publicly called for Congress to extend the current farm bill, rather than passing a new one. However, House Ag Chair G.T. Thompson expressed caution around if, and how, the farm bill should be extended. But an extension may be Congress’s best choice, given the unresolved appropriations process and a potential government shutdown on November 17th.
On November 11th, House Speaker Mike Johnson revealed a plan to introduce a stopgap measure that would avert a government shutdown and extend the current farm bill through September 2024. Crucially, this plan was conceived in part by House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders, who included funding for the 20 programs “orphaned” when the 2018 Farm Bill expired.
This plan is far from a done deal, however, as some GOP members oppose the stopgap measure and may try to leverage the farm bill, and especially SNAP funding, as part of larger government shutdown negotiation.
July 18, 2023
Congress heads into last session before August recess
On June 22nd, the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2024 agriculture appropriations bill, unanimously and with bipartisan approval. Compared to the House Appropriations Committee bill passed the week prior, this bill did not contain the same deep cuts to spending on research, nutrition, and other important programs. It also did not include the same rider that limited the Packers and Stockyards Act as the House Appropriations bill.
The Senate bill set spending at $500 million more than last year, with increases primarily to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. The next step is for the two chambers of Congress to reconcile, or come to an agreement between the two bills, a process that will likely prove difficult given the vast differences between them and the control that far right Republicans have on the House.
Congress resumes their work this week, which will be their last session before August recess. This will be a final opportunity for legislators to introduce “marker bills,” bills that are not intended to pass, but that allow legislators to put forward their priorities within the Farm Bill and get a feel for their support.
Congress will likely put forward a first draft of the 2023 Farm Bill when they are back in September. Stay tuned for more updates!
May 18, 2023
Bill with drastic cuts moves forward
The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee passed an agriculture appropriations bill. We were disappointed to see that it drastically cut agricultural funding by 30% ($8.3 billion) for the 2024 fiscal year budget as compared to 2023. This bill passed out of subcommittee along party lines. Next up, the House Appropriations Committee will markup the bill. This step was supposed to occur the week of May 22, but has been delayed due to ongoing debt ceiling negotiations.