Ag Policy Blog
Speaker McCarthy Vows to Pass a Farm Bill This Year
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., appeared at the World Ag Expo in Tulare, Calif., on Tuesday and said, "This is the year we do the farm bill."
McCarthy made the statement in an 11-minute appearance before House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., held a listening session on the farm bill.
McCarthy said he was pleased that the members of the House who would listen to farmers were bipartisan and "who are here to use their ears."
Farm leaders have been looking for reassurances from McCarthy that he is committed to passing a farm bill before the 2018 bill expires on September 30. McCarthy referred to the many votes that occurred before he was elected speaker but did not make any references to whether the 17 House Republicans who made it difficult for him to win the speakership would also make it difficult to pass the farm bill.
Speaking at the start of the listening session, McCarthy added, "We've got a farm bill up once every five years. There are a lot of concerns when it comes especially out here with specialty crops, and others. Making investments in R&D, making sure diseases don't come, making sure we invest to broaden our ability to sell to other places."
McCarthy added, "As I always like to say, agriculture takes the tradition of the past and applies it to a changing future."
Talking about a technology competition, McCarthy shifted to trade. "We realized competition makes it tougher, but if America is given a level playing field, we can compete anywhere and win. Our products our better, or opportunities are greater."
SPEAKING TO CROP INSURERS
BONITA SPRINGS, Fla -- Across the country, Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Rep. Salud Carbajal, D-Calif., also spoke Monday at the Crop Insurance Industry Annual Convention.
Lucas, a former House Agriculture Committee chairman who is returning to the committee to work on a new farm bill, and Carbajal, who worked hard to get a waiver to serve on the committee, both said they believe Congress will pass a new farm bill, though not necessarily by September 30, when the current bill expires.
Lucas noted that President Biden will be running for re-election in 2024 and that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is retiring.
"Presidents like to sign the farm bill when they are running for re-election," Lucas said. And as for Stabenow, "this is her legacy bill, she has an incentive to get it done," he added.
"I am not holding my breath about getting it done by October 1, but we will get it done," Lucas said.
"At the end of the day, we are going to pass a farm bill," Carbajal said, even though "there is always talk of an extension."
But Lucas said that if conservative Republicans insist on cutting the farm bill, he would prefer an extension at current spending levels.
The challenge for the crop insurance industry, Lucas said, is "if this becomes a really tight-fisted Congress and there is pressure for defense spending due to all the problems around the world, and Stabenow refuses to allow any cuts in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), "there are only so many pools of money," and in agriculture those would be conservation and crop insurance.
"Strap on your boots, it is going to be a ride," Lucas said.
Both Lucas and Carbajal told the crop insurers they need to educate all members and their staffs, but Carbajal said crop insurers coming to Washington should insist on seeing the members. The best way to get an appointment with a member, he said, is to bring a constituent along.
Lucas also noted that each member has only 18 aides to serve the 800,000 people in the average congressional district, "so you have to educate them."
Lucas said he believes his chairmanship of the House Science Committee means he will be able to work with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Thompson on Thompson's interest in incorporating technology and innovation into every title of the farm bill.
Carbajal noted the several ad hoc disaster bills passed in recent years and said "we need to figure out disaster aid in the overall framework" of the bill.
Lucas warned the crop insurers not to be taken in by people who propose splitting the farm program and the nutrition program into separate bills.
Splitting the bill "is a ploy to destroy both the food production and nutrition" sections of the bill, Lucas advised.
Former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, who now has crop insurance clients, asked the two House members what they think about "attaching" requirements to address climate change to crop insurance participation.
Lucas said he believes "resources should follow production," and that he prefers "the carrot approach to cleaning up the environment" as opposed to "sticks" with the government punishing farmers who don't follow government directives.
Lucas told DTN however, that he knows from his own farm in Oklahoma that farming is more difficult today than 20 years ago.
Carbajal said it is important to have conservation programs to incentivize farmers.
"There is room to acknowledge the changing weather and how we might create more resilient farming operations," Carbajal said.
DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton contributed to this report.
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow him on Twitter @hagstromreport
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