Update and Outlook for Next Farm Bill

Senate Agriculture Committee

The Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, led by Chairwoman Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member Boozman (R-AR), held four farm bill-specific hearings last year, and the Committee has begun its farm bill-focused hearings this year on specific titles of the bill. These hearings have so far focused on the Trade and Horticulture Titles; Commodity, Crop Insurance, and Credit Titles; Nutrition Title; and Conservation and Forestry Titles.  This year’s hearings have included witnesses from the Administration, primarily U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials.  The Committee is expected to use its Subcommittees in the coming months to conduct an additional farm bill hearing to hear from agriculture industry stakeholders across the broad spectrum of policies and programs in the farm bill.

House Agriculture Committee

The House Committee on Agriculture held numerous full committee and subcommittee hearings throughout 2022 focused on each title of the farm bill in preparation for farm bill reauthorization this year.  Chairman Thompson (R-PA) and Ranking Member Scott (D-GA) have begun conducting additional farm bill focused hearings this year, which will also include listening sessions/field hearings in various states.

Farm Bill Outlook

The 2018 Farm Bill expires at the end of this year, though some programs are tied to the fiscal year or crop year, meaning some expire on September 30, and others cover the crop harvested this fall and until the end of its marketing year.  In addition, many policies and programs in the bill are considered “permanent law” and do not require reauthorization to continue.  These include programs like crop insurance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/nutrition programs), and many of the conservation programs were reauthorized through 2031 in the Inflation Reduction Act passed by Congress last year.

The current fiscal environment and Federal budget situation will complicate efforts to provide the additional needed resources for the Farm Bill to address many of the expected policy requests to help strengthen the safety net and to fund existing Farm Bill programs with no budget baseline (estimated at $1.0 billion to continue all existing Farm Bill programs at current levels).  CBO’s February 2023 10-year budget estimate for the Farm Bill is nearly $1.5 trillion.

Related to the broader debate on the Farm Bill is the need for Congress to address the debt ceiling by either raising or suspending the Federal debt limit.  Based on current estimates, Congress will need to complete action on this issue by mid to late summer of 2023 timeframe, as the Treasury Department reached the limit on January 19 and began using “extraordinary measures” to avoid a default.  The key question is what spending reductions and/or fiscal policy changes, including potentially for entitlement or mandatory programs (Medicaid, SNAP, Farm Programs), might be required as part of any negotiation to increase or suspend the debt limit.

It is also important to note that the new 118th Congress makeup includes Members representing about 25 percent of the Senate, nearly half of the House will never have voted on a Farm Bill, and some have limited exposure to agriculture and farm policy.  This means a lot of education and outreach needs to occur within the space of less than a year to help all Members of Congress be prepared for the development and passage of a new Farm Bill this year.

February 2023 Congressional Budget Office (CBO) 10-Year Outlays in Million$

 April 2018February 2023Change ($)Change (%)
CCC Price Support & Related Activities64,30571,806+7,501+11.7%
Crop Insurance78,03796,974+18,937+24.3%

Source:  Agricultural and Food Policy Center, Texas A&M University