Ag Policy Blog

Ag Chairs Stabenow, Thompson Spar Over CBO Scores and the Farm Bill

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
House Agriculture Committee Chairman GT Thompson, R-Pa., and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., visit briefly during a meeting with reporters back in April. The two chairs remain divided over spending and funds for the next farm bill. (DTN photo by Jerry Hagstrom)

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week released an updated budget outlook that led Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., to issue a statement that it proved House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., used "magic math" in developing his bill and Thompson to criticize Stabenow in return.

The budget outlook decreased its estimate for spending under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the nation's largest nutrition benefit program. The outlook said, "For technical reasons, CBO decreased its estimate of outlays for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in 2024 by $7 billion and its projections of such outlays for the 2025-2034 period by $59 billion (or 5%). Those decreases were largely the result of a reduction in the projection of average benefits. CBO reduced that projection because recent data showed that actual average monthly benefits were lower than previously projected." The numbers for individual years may be found on page 50 of the budget outlook.

In addition, the CBO projection on farm program spending estimated much lower amounts of spending for Section 5 of the Commodity Credit Corporation Charter Act than Thompson has hoped for. Thompson's bill, which the House Agriculture Committee passed recently, would suspend Section 5 of the CCC Charter Act and would use the savings to pay for increases in Title I commodity support programs. Thompson's staff has estimated the cost of increases to the commodity programs at $53 billion, but CBO estimates that the spending that could be used for savings at much less than that, with some years at zero. Details on year-by-year Section 5 projections may be found on page 47 of the farm bill analysis.

The changes in spending estimates could make it more difficult for Congress to come up with the budget authority to pass a new farm bill.

In a statement Tuesday, Stabenow said, "Today's updated projections from CBO prove what we have been saying all along: The House Republican farm bill is unpaid-for, relying on magic math and wishful thinking. In exchange for blocking USDA's ability to provide real-time assistance to farmers through the CCC to address emerging challenges, House Republicans received only a small fraction of the $50 billion hole they need to fill to pay for their bill.

"Our Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act is meaningful and responsible. And, importantly, it does not fracture the farm and food coalition that is the foundation of every successful farm bill. I did the hard work of securing new resources outside of the farm bill through $2.3 billion invested in trade promotion and food aid and a $5 billion commitment in bipartisan offsets from my leadership.

"It's time to get real and stop the posturing and the rhetoric. It's time to negotiate in reality. My door is open," Stabenow added.

Thompson said in an email, "Simply put, the retiring senator from Michigan still has no bill text, no funding mechanism, and no bipartisan support for her proposals, but the House will continue its work on our committee-passed, bipartisan, legislative text in pursuit of a five-year farm bill.

"While we appreciate the difficult job of CBO, there are still clear discrepancies between their forecasts and historic realities. We will continue to work with the Budget Committee to ensure scores reflect the reality of how Section 5 authority has been used since 2018.

"The only legacy I am fighting for is that of family farms to be able to ensure they can be passed down to the next generation. This isn't posturing; it's a priority that must be met for members that represent rural America -- and the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024 does just that."

Neither Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee, nor Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, has commented on the CBO budget outlook or farm bill baseline projections.

CBO baseline projections for farm programs:…

CBO budget and economic outlook, 2024-2034…

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at

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