Agriculture Committee’s Gathering Stakeholder Priorities and Input

Last week, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities, Risk Management, and Credit held a hearing led by Chairman Austin Scott (R-GA) and Ranking Member Shontel Brown (D-OH).  The panel heard producer perspectives on the next farm bill from farmers representing ten of the primary crops covered by ARC/PLC, marketing loan programs, and crop insurance.  The crops represented included corn, soybeans, wheat, cotton, rice, peanuts, sugarcane and sugar beets, sorghum, canola, and dry peas and lentils.  Common themes among all the groups included the critical importance of crop insurance as a risk management tool for producers and their lenders, and the need to update the safety net reference prices in ARC/PLC to better reflect today’s cost structure and market realities.  Some groups are focused on opportunities to better align program base acres with more recent planted acres for their crop and add base acres to farms currently in crop production that do not have existing crop base acres, and thus are not able to participate in ARC/PLC.  Most groups also noted their concerns with and negative consequences of any further attempts to reduce program payment limits or eligibility requirements, and the need to boost funding for USDA’s export market promotion and development programs.  A replay of the hearing is available here:  “Producer Perspectives on the 2023 Farm Bill” | House Agriculture Committee

This week, the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management, and Trade, led by Sen. Tina Smith (D-MN), chair, and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), ranking member, will hold a hearing with producers representing ten major commodities, along with the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Farmers Union.  This hearing on May 2 will focus on producer perspectives on the upcoming farm bill.  This Subcommittee will then hold a hearing on May 4 to hear industry perspectives on crop insurance and access to credit from agriculture industry stakeholders.  These hearings can be viewed at: Hearings | Senate Committee On Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry.

Both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees are continuing their work and focus to start developing the 2023 Farm Bill, while the budget situation and broader political backdrop remains highly uncertain.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to release its updated budget baseline for the farm bill on May 12, and this budget document is expected to serve as the funding guide for any policy changes or additions the Committees consider for the new farm bill.  Both Committees have requested their respective Budget Committee in Congress to provide additional funding resources to develop a new farm bill with a more robust safety net for producers.  However, the current fiscal climate may complicate those efforts.  Before any significant action can progress on the farm bill, Congress and the President must address the pending debt limit to avoid default by the Federal government.  As part of any legislation to raise the debt limit, there will likely be funding reductions paired with the measure to help address the Federal deficit.  These potential spending reductions may or may not implicate portions of the farm bill, potentially the nutrition programs.  The outcome of the debt limit legislation will likely impact the farm bill, positively or negatively, depending on what, if any, spending reductions are required.

At this time, we still anticipate the major activity on the new farm bill to occur in the fall timeframe, and may well push into 2024 before completion.