BONITA SPRINGS, Fla. (DTN) -- Educating new members of the House and Senate about agricultural policy is the biggest issue surrounding the development of the 2023 farm bill, a former Republican staff director of the Senate Agriculture Committee said here Friday, while a former Democratic staff director of the committee said the crop insurance industry should portray crop insurance as a climate-change program.
"The biggest issue is education of members" because so many members of both the House and Senate Agriculture committees are new, said James Glueck, a vice president at the Torrey Advisory Group and Republican staff director of the Senate Agriculture Committee under Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said at the Crop Insurance and Reinsurance Bureau meeting.
"There will be questions about disaster aid and whether the crop insurance program is meeting the needs," Glueck said, noting that it is important to explain the complexity of the program to new staff as well as new members.
Joe Schultz, the executive director of the Platform for Agriculture and Climate Transformation (PACT) and the former Democratic staff director of the Senate Agriculture Committee under Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told the industry executives that they should portray as the crop insurance program as "the first line of defense" in protecting American agriculture against climate change.
Even though some Republicans have said they don't want conservation programs focused on climate, the issue has been part of the program for several years. In the 2018 farm bill debate the term to describe it was "extreme weather," Schultz said, but 25% of the spending under the Environmental Quality Incentives Program is going for climate adaptation. This year, he added, "We will talk about it in more explicit terms."
Schultz also said "politically it is incredibly important to bring new people into the fold" for crop insurance. "The evolution started with specialty crops as a new entrant and moved on to the livestock industry, which wanted disaster assistance," he said.
Schultz also noted that after the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) crop insurance is the single biggest line item in the farm bill.
Tara Smith of the Torrey Group, who moderated the session, noted that the addition of the new entrants brought in support from members in New England.
Schultz said that, with a Democratic president, a Democratic-controlled Senate and a Republican-controlled House, "We probably won't see big revolutionary changes."
Glueck said he expects there to be a focus on innovation and science. He said the decision of House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., to put nutrition and trade in the same subcommittree is a signal that he wants to "imbed" innovation throughout the farm bill.
Glueck pointed out that the infrastructure and CHIPS bills that Congress passed last year went through on a bipartisan basis.
Schultz noted that while there were 38 programs that were going to expire without new funding in 2018, this year there are only 18. The largest, he said, is funding for the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research.
Glueck noted that there will be a "dairy cliff," a loss of the dairy safety net, if no action is taken.
As to the question of whether the bill will get done before the 2018 bill expires on September 30, Glueck said Congress is "a little behind" but that the Senate is now "going methodically through the process."
Schultz pointed out that if you look at the congressional calendar "there are limited weeks to put everything together." Stabenow's retirement makes it more likely the bill will get done in the Senate this year, "but I don't know if it will get signed into law," Schultz said.
Glueck noted that of the 17 members who made it difficult for Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., to be elected House speaker, "many have not voted for farm bills."
On the House side, Glueck said, there could be crop insurance amendments offered. But he added, Thompson seems sincere about bipartisanship, and the COVID-19 pandemic food shortages "may mean that members understand better the importance of farmers."
Also see, "Seven Worries About Farm Safety Net Heading Into Next Farm Bill,"
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at email@example.com
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