Capitol Hill squabbling raises questions about Farm Bill prospects

According to recent reporting in Politico, lawmakers and staff are “significantly more gloomy” on Farm Bill prospects for 2024. The bill is set to expire again on Sept. 30.

There has been partisan squabbling in the House, with Ag Committee ranking member David Scott (D-Ga.) calling it “shameful” that House Republicans don’t “seem to share in our commitment to advancing the interests of agriculture and rural America.” GOP aides and lawmakers say Scott has said in private that he wants to work with House Ag Chair G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.) on the bill, but that the Georgia Democrat hasn’t engaged much since Republicans put forward a list of possible spending offsets for the Farm Bill. Politico reports that House Republicans increasingly don’t believe House Democrats want to pass a farm bill this year, arguing that Democrats want to push the bill into 2025 when they could retake the majority.

In the Senate, Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the most senior Ag Committee member lamented the lack of Farm Bill progress in comments to reporters.

“What I’ve observed in the last six months is resistance by Democrats to putting more farm in the Farm Bill, which basically means an increase of reference pricing,” Grassley said. “Until those things are worked out, [and]I don’t believe they’ve been worked out, we aren’t gonna make any progress in the Senate.”

The deadlock is part of a multiyear battle over limited Farm Bill resources. Republicans drew an early red line that any Farm Bill must include increases to reference prices for commodity support programs. But freeing the money to do so would require cuts in other areas of the bill, such as nutrition or conservation titles.

Democrats, led by Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), are trying to protect the nearly $20 billion increase to the conservation title secured for climate-smart agriculture from the Inflation Reduction Act and the nutrition title.