Farm Bill Blues, Some Extension Looking More Likely

Congress may be getting a case of the ‘farm bill blues’ as political and deadline challenges mount for the must-pass legislation. Already behind schedule and facing political turmoil over SNAP spending and a September 30th deadline for a new farm bill, Ag lawmakers are confronting the stark reality of a possible extension.

Senator Chuck Grassley raised the concern in mid-June, and House and Senate Ag chairs have now acknowledged the same. American Farm Bureau’s Andrew Walmsley says; “You just look at where we are on the calendar and the fact of, kind of, the pace that the committees have been working at, a lot of discussions early on, with a September timeline for movement in both the House and the Senate, and so, for a lot of us, I think there was this expectation that we would need a short-term extension.”

And it’s not just the time squeeze for a bill that even in the best of cases takes months. There’s the SNAP spending rebellion in the GOP’s hard right flank and the prospect of tough negotiations with Senate Democrats.

Walmsley; “There’s some on the far right, in particular, that want to continue to have a discussion, and that’s something that leadership and Congress will have to navigate towards getting a farm bill done. It’s not necessarily a new challenge that we haven’t seen before, and it’s something that, from a good stewardship standpoint for Congress, it’s 81 percent of the spending in the farm bill.”

House Ag Chair G.T. Thompson hopes to have a draft farm bill ready for panel action in September, but the bill would then face a gauntlet of votes and needed compromises.

Walmsley on a delay’s impact on producers; “If Congress is able to pass a short-term extension ‘til the end of the year or just the early part of 2024 to give them a little bit of breathing room to complete the bill, it shouldn’t be too disruptive. It’s if we weren’t able to extend current law, and if there was that much dysfunction come September after the August recess, I think that would inject some uncertainty.”

But Walmsley says producers can’t let up the pressure, especially during the recess when lawmakers are home, to get a farm bill done.

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