AFBF Still Hopeful on Farm Bill

Despite Presidential Election, Farm Bureau Sees a Path for Congress to Pass a Farm Bill

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Sam Kieffer, left, vice president of public policy for American Farm Bureau Federation, talks about the prospects of a farm bill with James Glueck, executive director of the Plant Based Products Council, at a conference Tuesday in Omaha. (DTN photo by Chris Clayton)

OMAHA (DTN) -- A key lobbyist for the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) is still hopeful a farm bill can get done in a presidential election year.

Sam Kieffer, AFBF vice president of public policy, said Tuesday that the House Agriculture Committee is "champing at the bit" to start moving on a farm bill despite the political wrangling of a presidential election year.

"I believe the House is ready to make a move in short order," he said.

AFBF staff or other agricultural groups have not seen the text of a farm bill, but Kieffer said farm groups have seen "individual provisions and concepts over the last six months."

Kieffer spoke Tuesday at a conference in Omaha for the Plant Based Products Council. Without a broad push to demand Congress act, he said it will be harder to get a farm bill done this year now that the presidential nominees are already chosen.

"We are in what I call silly season. It's the presidential election," Kieffer said. "On a lot of policy conversation, the legislators are no longer holding the microphone."

Both chambers of Congress also have their own "math problems." In the House, a handful of Republicans have a history of voting against everything, Kieffer noted. In the Senate, it takes 60 votes to pass a farm bill. Essentially, to pass a farm bill in either chamber, the legislation will need bipartisan support, he said.

"That being said, I still think there's a great opportunity for a farm bill to be accomplished because it is important because it impacts not just rural America, but all of America," Kieffer said.

Along with farm programs and crop insurance, the farm bill helps vulnerable people with nutritional needs, but the legislation also helps spur innovation and boost research, technology and infrastructure such as broadband, Kieffer pointed out.

"It is about making sure we as a nation remain competitive," he said.

All those topics are issues voters agree upon and issues that members of Congress from both parties can campaign on, he said.

There also remain supply chain disruptions from the pandemic, and other types of trade disruptions -- some caused by infrastructure and others due to ongoing hostile situations around the world.

"There are a lot of reasons why Congress must get its act together," Kieffer said.

His comments come as Republican senators are pushing Democratic leaders to put the farm bill on the Senate's agenda after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., did not mention the farm bill in a letter Friday to fellow senators about the Senate's agenda this spring.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote a letter Tuesday to Schumer calling on him to help get a farm bill done.

"You said that Democrats are 'ready to work with (Republicans) to find compromise,'" Grassley wrote. "So I call on you and the rest of my Democratic colleagues in the Senate to do the hard work of coming to the table to bring forward and pass a bipartisan farm bill this year."

GOP senators on Tuesday also held a press conference in Washington over legislation they introduced to "strengthen crop insurance and keep the farm in the farm bill."

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Chris Clayton