Ag Policy Blog

Critics Sharpen Complaints Over House Farm Bill

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., released the text of a farm bill plan that will be marked up in committee on Thursday, May 23. Critics are pointing to provisions in nutrition, conservation and language over states and federal authorities in their efforts to push back on the bill. (DTN photo and official portrait)

Groups opposed to different parts of the House Agriculture Committee version of the farm bill are shouting from rooftops over it.

The bill is scheduled for a committee markup on Thursday.

Environmental groups on Monday sent a joint letter "on behalf of hundreds of chefs and farmers across all 50 states" opposing the House bill. The groups included the James Beard Foundation, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group. They called on keeping the conservation investments from the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) focused on mitigating the effects of climate change. They also called for a farm bill that "supports a sustainable food system."

Several organizations opposed to the bill have a press conference set for Tuesday.

Others opposed a provision in the bill that reverses the language in the House bill over California's Proposition 12 and other state laws restricting food based on production standards outside their boundaries. The Organization for Competitive Markets and Competitive Markets Action were among those criticizing the provision.

"The measure panders to industrial agriculture monopolies like the Chinese-owned Smithfield, the National Pork Producers Council, and the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, and would nullify countless state laws across the country that protect the last few remaining independent pork producers in our nation with its slimmed down version of the EATS Act," the groups said.

Several anti-hunger groups also criticized the bill for cutting nearly $27 billion from adjustments made to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), though as much as $16 billion would be used to boost other nutrition programs as well.

After House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., released the text of his proposed farm bill on Friday, ranking member Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., said the bill "confirms my worst fears," while Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., sounded a bit more hopeful that the release of the text could be the beginning of passing a farm bill conference agreement this year, although she expressed the same policy concerns as Scott.

Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, has not yet made a public statement on Thompson's bill.

Scott said, "The discussion draft released by Chairman Thompson today confirms my worst fears: House Republicans plan to pay for the farm bill by taking food out of the mouths of America's hungry children, restricting farmers from receiving the climate-smart conservation funding they so desperately need, and barring the USDA from providing financial assistance to farmers in times of crisis."

"The economic impact of the SNAP cuts alone would be staggering. A $27 billion reduction in food purchasing power would not only increase hunger, but it would also reduce demand for jobs in the agriculture, transportation, manufacturing, and grocery sectors," Scott said.

"Food has become a natural security issue, as pointed out by experts at our recent hearing on China, and weakening our ability to feed the most vulnerable members of our communities is shortsighted and wrong.

"The Republican plan to eliminate the Agriculture Secretary's CCC discretionary authority would tie the hands of our government to assist farmers during natural disasters and pandemics.

"The funding proposal that the chairman has put forward does a disservice to American agriculture because it doesn't provide a path forward to getting a bill passed on the House floor," Scott said.

Stabenow said, "I've had several conversations with Chairman Thompson encouraging him to get his ideas on paper so that we can move this process forward. I'm glad his committee released the Food, Farm, and National Security Act, and it appears that our visions for the 2024 farm bill have a lot in common.

"I remain deeply concerned that his proposal will split the broad, bipartisan coalition that has always been the foundation of a successful farm bill," Stabenow said.

"It makes significant cuts to the family safety net that millions of Americans rely on, and it blocks USDA's ability to provide real time assistance to farmers through the CCC to address emerging challenges. Even with these shortsighted cuts, it is unclear to me how they will pay for their proposal.

"Democrats have made clear from the beginning that we will not walk away from our commitment to the most vulnerable among us or from our farmers battling the effects of the climate crisis every day. The Food, Farm, and National Security Act clearly crosses those bright red lines and turns back the clock on decades of progress for farmers and families.

"The only path forward is holding together our broad coalition of farmers, hunger and nutrition advocates, rural communities, conservationists, and the climate community. That has always been how we ensure that our country's farmers, families, workers, and rural communities have the certainty of a bipartisan, five-year farm bill.

"However, today is a positive step forward in this process, and I look forward to working with Chairman Thompson," Stabenow said.

Upon releasing the bill, Thompson said, "The Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024 is the product of extensive feedback from stakeholders and all members of the House, and is responsive to the needs of farm country through the incorporation of hundreds of bipartisan policies."

"The release of this draft is a significant step forward in a years-long, deliberative process. The markup is one step in a greater House process, that should not be compromised by misleading arguments, false narratives, or edicts from the Senate.

"I look forward to engaging with colleagues on both sides of the aisle as we move to markup," Thompson said.

DTN Ag Policy Editor Chris Clayton contributed to this report.

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@nationaljournal.com

Follow him on social platform X @hagstromreport

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