Political Dogfight Ahead for Farm Bill

GOP House Ag Member Predicts Government Shutdown, Doubts a Farm Bill in 2023

Jerry Hagstrom
By  Jerry Hagstrom , DTN Political Correspondent
The House of Representatives is expected to try to take up the farm bill this fall. Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said she expects a "political dogfight," adding she doesn't think the farm bill will be one in 2023. (DTN image from congressional portrait)

NAPA, Calif. (DTN) -- House Agriculture Committee member, Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., said here Monday she expects there to be a government shutdown this fall, and signaled she doubts that a new farm bill will be enacted this year.

Asked by DTN after a speech to the American Sugar Alliance here if she expects a government shutdown, Cammack said, "Yes."

She added, "I hope not," but repeated that she expects there will be a shutdown.

The federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30, requiring Congress to either rapidly pass a series of funding bills, or pass a continuing resolution to keep the federal government operating.

During her speech to the nation's beet and cane growers at the annual International Sweetener Symposium, Cammack said "This farm bill is not going to be about the policy, this farm bill is going to be about the politics."

Cammack said she believes the farm bill and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., "will be successful." But she added, "Will it be this year? I don't know."


Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., a member of the House Agriculture Committee, told the sugar growers if the House "can't get a bipartisan farm bill off the floor in October or November," the Senate may develop a bill and send it to the House "before the end of the year."

The Senate, Costa said, won't "load up" the bill with objectionable amendments on which the Republicans in the House may insist, Costa said.

Costa said he could not predict when Congress will pass a new farm bill, but "We will have a new farm bill someday." The current farm bill "may need to be extended until the end of the year," he added.

In a video, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., told the sugar growers she believes the Senate will take the lead on the next farm bill.

The agreement between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and President Joe Biden on the debt ceiling bill should be "a good sign" that there are members of the House who want to reduce spending below the caps established in that bill, Costa noted.

Costa said "I don't think it's likely" there will be money to "plus up" provisions in the farm bill, but he said he wants the bill to improve crop insurance.

Farm groups need to educate the public that "food is a national security issue," he noted.


Cammack said she has told Thompson that the farm bill needs to be "managed as a national security package," or it will get picked apart.

"Food security is national security," she said.

She also predicted the debate over the farm bill "will be the biggest political dogfight in modern history."

The farm bill "has had a long and storied history of being bipartisan," but it is also controversial in several circles, Cammack said. Outside groups put money into campaigns and the infrastructure that surrounds campaigns and "key" vote the farm bill so that legislators "get scared" and don't want to support it, she said.

Members of Congress are participating in "angertainment," she said, which allows them to raise money but results in bad policy.

When the farm bill gets to the House floor, groups on both the Democratic and Republican sides will offer amendments to "take down" the sugar program, she said.

People tell her they are opposed to the sugar program due to the "subsidy," she said, adding that she takes pleasure in telling them it is a no-cost program.

She told the sugar growers that they, too, must confront the sugar program's critics. She also said farm groups must keep the agriculture and nutrition programs in the same bill because they are "dependent" on each other.

"Sugar is unique in that it has a great regional representation -- sugarbeets up north to sugarcane in the South," she said.

The sugar program's critics "have been living off the same set of talking points for the last 12 or 15 years," she said. "Push back and their argument falls apart. Stop being afraid of the conversation. Don't be afraid to push back."

Cammack did not mention an industry proposal to raise sugar support prices in the farm bill, but when asked by DTN whether that would happen, she said, "Anything's possible," and noted that input and labor costs have gone up.

In her speech, she said she did not think there would be money to raise the reference prices that trigger subsidy payments for other commodities. The House did not act on the fiscal year 2024 Agriculture appropriations bill before leaving for the August break due to "the price tag," she said.

There are 30 to 40 Republicans and the same number of Democrats who have said they won't vote for the farm bill, she said.

The farm bill will be considered under an open rule, which means there can be an unlimited number of amendments, she added.

Cammack said her ancestors were Germans from Russia who settled in Minnesota and grew sugar beets. She grew up on a ranch in Colorado where her family was in the sandblasting business, she said.

Working in the family business she came to detest regulators from "three-letter" agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Labor Department because their officials sit in basements and make up rules for businesses they do not understand.

Cammack said her negative experiences with government regulators led her to sponsor the Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny (REINS) Act, which would require congressional approval of major rules -- those with an annual price tag of $100 million or more -- before federal agencies could implement them.

The REINS Act passed the House in June, but Cammack said some members of her own Republican Party told her they would oppose the rule just to make a point.

Cammack represents Florida's Third District, having succeeded her former boss, Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.

Yoho was a prime backer of the Zero for Zero resolution that says the U.S. government should seek elimination of all direct and indirect subsidies benefiting the production or export of sugar in other countries.

Cammack has introduced that resolution in this Congress. ASA Chairman Ryan Weston thanked Cammack for introducing the resolution and said she has been "a staunch champion for sugar producers on the Hill."

Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at jhagstrom@nationaljournal.com

Follow him on X, formerly known as Twitter, @hagstromreport

Jerry Hagstrom