New Farm Bill in 2024?

As we noted last month, with the one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill, Congress has most of next year to develop, finalize, and pass a new, five-year farm bill beginning with the 2025 crop year.  While there is strong momentum and urgency from farm country and all farm bill stakeholders for Congress to complete a new farm bill, the impending funding deadlines confronting Congress in the first quarter of next year, election year politics, and the ongoing challenge in finding new resources or reallocating existing resources within the farm bill to enhance the producer safety net all point to less than certain odds of a 2024 Farm Bill.

On the funding issue, Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has indicated her leadership will provide an additional four to five billion in new funding for the farm bill, which would presumably be focused on modest enhancements to the producer safety net programs and crop insurance.  However, Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) has consistently advocated for robust resources to effectively raise reference prices (support levels) in the ARC/PLC program and strengthen crop insurance to be even more responsive to production losses experienced by all farmers and ranchers.  To accomplish these key objectives important to all producers, significantly additional funding will be necessary, either through new funding or reallocating some existing funds in other areas of the farm bill.

On the House Agriculture Committee, Chairman G.T. Thompson (R-PA) is working to identify potential funding offsets within the farm bill that could be used to improve the farmer safety net.  Some of these possible policy changes to generate savings include:

  • Redirecting some funding from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), currently dedicated to ‘climate-smart’ agriculture practices within existing conservation programs;
  • Place restrictions or limitation on future updates USDA makes to the Thrifty Food Plan, which determines the value of SNAP nutrition benefits for individuals and families;
  • Impose restrictions on the Secretary of Agriculture’s authority to utilize the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) for ad hoc, emergency assistance and other purposes, which is currently a broad authority afforded to the Secretary.

While Chairman Thompson has been exploring these potential funding offsets within the farm bill to determine which ones may be viable, the Committee’s Ranking Member, Rep. David Scott (D-GA) has indicated his party will not support limitations to future updates to the Thrifty Food Plan in SNAP nor any redirection of climate-focused funds within the IRA.

The one-year Farm Bill extension has given Congress the necessary time to complete a new farm bill next year, yet the same funding and policy challenges and differences remain that will likely cause continued delay in advancing a new bill through the House and Senate – at least in the early part of 2024.  IF a breakthrough on funding resources can be reached to bolster the commodity and crop insurance programs, then progress can be made on a bipartisan Farm Bill.  Absent agreement on the necessary funding, we struggle to see a clear path for how a new farm bill comes together next year before election year politics dominate Congress and their ability to work in a bipartisan fashion – which the Farm Bill must be bipartisan to reach the finish line.  The time and will is present in Congress to pass a new farm bill – the budget resources are the missing key that is necessary to unlock the path to a successful bipartisan Farm Bill that U.S. agriculture and all farm bill stakeholders deserve.