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Policy quick hits: The farm bill reaction edition

Just about everyone in the ag world has something to say about the House Republican farm bill framework.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

May 20, 2024

5 Min Read
U.S. capitol building with flag background
Getty Images/franckreporter

As you may have heard, the House Ag Committee is set to consider a new farm bill proposal introduced by Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson this week. Much to nobody’s surprise, advocacy groups on all sides have plenty to say about the potential legislation. Today I’ll highlight some of the things people are saying across the industry.

Progress is a positive step

Some saw the release of a new farm bill draft as a positive development in the push toward a new bill. American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall stressed producers need a farm bill that provided stability. He says his organization looked forward to “taking a deep dive” into the House draft this week.

“We hope to see the Senate Agriculture Committee’s version soon so we can move forward with getting the farm bill passed,” Duvall says. “It’s too important to wait. America’s families are counting on Congress to get this done.”

The National Association of State Department of Agriculture also applauded the draft’s release, stressing the need for a “bipartisan farm bill that will secure a commitment to American agriculture and the critical food and nutritional assistance programs for those who need it most.”

National Farmers Union President Rob Larew thanked Thompson for moving the draft forward. However, he also has concerns about certain provisions and the ability to pass a bipartisan bill.

“NFU appreciates the draft’s commodity program improvements and enhancements to crop insurance, which will provide better risk management tools to more farmers and cover more acres,” Larew says. “We urge the committee to avoid nutrition program provisions that would harm the most vulnerable among us and to build upon popular climate-focused conservation tools that help farmers mitigate the impacts of climate change.”

Happy to have priorities addressed

Some industry groups were especially happy to see their specific priorities addresses. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association applauded the bill for addressing priorities like protecting the cattle industry from foreign animal diseases. It also praised expanding the Livestock Indemnity Program to cover 100% of the cost of an attack by a federally protected predator and providing $150 million to support feral swine eradication efforts.

“Chairman Thompson’s farm bill supports these critical needs for the cattle industry, and I am very grateful that the chairman listened to groups like NCBA when writing this bill,” NCBA President Mark Eisele says. “We strongly support this legislation and urge Congress to pass this bill.”

The National Pork Producers Council said the Republican bill secured all if its’ priorities, including language to negate California Proposition 12 and providing $233 million annual for resources to combat foreign animal diseases. NPPC President Lori Stevermer says the legislation is a “prime example of how government should work.”

Dairy industry officials were also widely happy with new rules addressing their priorities.

The American Sheep Association said the bill featured “big wins” for the sheep industry including a considerable increase to the existing wool marketing loan rate, increased funding for the Sheep Production and Marketing Grant Program, and established baseline and increased funds for the Wool Trust Fund.

Similarly, The Fertilizer Institute cheered the bill for including “key priorities for the industry that support efforts to encourage greater adoption of nutrient stewardship and conservation practices by growers across the country.”

Disappointment with nutrition funding and international food aid

Other groups lamented GOP attempts to limit nutrition spending and change the way international food aid is distributed. Bill O’Keefe with Catholic Relief Services says changes to the Food for Peace program will undermine the “program quality and reach.”

Ty Jones Cox, vice president for food assistance at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, says that the bill would give Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program participants less money to buy groceries in future years. He argues this would put healthy diets out of reach for millions of people.

“This would be the largest cut to SNAP since 1996 if enacted and these cuts would grow even deeper over time," Cox says.

Officials with the AFL-CIO issued a statement strongly opposing the House bill. “Families rely on Food for Peace – and also SNAP, SNAP’s Thrifty Food Plan, and other federal nutrition and food security programs,” the group said. “We cannot support making harmful policy changes or funding cuts to any of them.”

Concerns over animal welfare

ASPCA Senior Vice President of Government Relations Nancy Perry contends the farm bill proposal attacks state protections for farm animals. She says those changes will increase the number of dogs in “puppy mills” and the number of horses slaughtered. She called on lawmakers to oppose the GOP plan.

“It is far too harmful to support, and we urge Congress to ensure that the final farm bill upholds state farm animal protection laws.”

Fighting back against “big ag”

Food & Water Watch Managing Director of Policy and Litigation Mitch Jones said the farm bill was an opportunity to reform the food and agriculture industry away from away from “factory farms and corporate greed.”  Instead, he accused Republicans of doing the opposite.

 “Some of leadership’s more dangerous proposals would take us backwards on animal welfare and climate-smart agriculture — both The EATS Act and support for factory farm biogas must be dead on arrival,” Jones says. “It’s time Congress put the culture wars aside and got back to work on a farm bill that puts consumers, farmers and the environment above politicking and big ag handouts.”

That sentiment was echoed by the Organization for Competitive Markets and Competitive Markets Action, which called the bill a direct reflection of the continued corruption in the swamp that has put countless American family farmers out of business decade after decade.”

“The measure panders to industrial agriculture monopolies like the Chinese-owned Smithfield, the National Pork Producers Council, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and would nullify countless state laws across the country that protect the last few remaining independent pork producers in our nation,” the group said in a May 17 statement.

Expect plenty of more reactions, arguments and outright accusations in the coming weeks. It’s all part of the lawmaking process. Time will tell if that process actually leads to lawmaking this year.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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