While less than anticipated action has taken place this year on the 2023 Farm Bill, National Sorghum Producers is preparing for action and looking at the provisions that will impact sorghum farmers the most. Read about our efforts so far.
For those who expected a lot to happen this year in anticipation of next year’s farm bill debate, they are likely disappointed.
Yes, both the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have held some hearings and listening sessions in Washington, D.C., and out in the field.
However, there has not been the sort of highly choreographed hearing schedule that usually prefaces a farm bill debate.
Democrats have been too focused on completing more pieces of their agenda before the midterm elections where pundits predict Republicans are likely to reclaim the House majority and stand a better than ever chance of also taking the Senate.
For their part, Republicans have been focused on blocking much of that agenda, while also gearing full throttle into their efforts to wrest control of Washington, D.C., come November.
That is not to say there have not been some highlights and important signals sent to date.
In March, our own Verity Ulibarri of Melrose, New Mexico, knocked it out of the park in her testimony before the House Agriculture Committee in spelling out sorghum priorities in the next farm bill, and farm groups have been fairly aligned in sending this message — the farm safety net must be strengthened in the 2023 rewrite.
Furthermore, there will be opportunity for producers to provide more input next year when it really matters.
By that time, a quarter of the U.S. Senate and nearly half of the U.S. House will never have voted on a farm bill.
Hence, hearings next year will not only be an opportunity for farmers to speak their peace but also an opportunity for new members to hear their message.
Rep. G.T. Thompson (R-PA), the heir apparent to the Chairmanship of the House Committee should Republicans win control, has already pledged to hit the ground running with a full slate of hearings — and we would anticipate Chairman Scott would also continue hearings should he remain at the helm under Democratic control.
Remember hearings began in 2018 relative to the last rewrite and, yet, the 2018 Farm Bill became the first to be written in the same year that it was introduced since 1990.
On substance, many have expressed interest in strengthening Title I — the Commodity Title — to enhance reference prices under PLC and ARC and potentially provide some element of margin protection given high costs of production.
Conservation will also be a hot topic, with Democrats likely to seek increases to address climate, especially if they fail to clear a reconciliation bill this year that makes new investments. The Supreme Court’s decision to strike down EPA’s ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act under the major decisions doctrine will make this push by Democrats even more certain.
Calls for doubling Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development Program (FMD) funding are already being heard, though the funding for both was just doubled in 2018.
There will be a big discussion around ad hoc disaster programs, such as the Wildfire and Hurricane Indemnity Plus Program (WHIP+) and the Emergency Relief Program (ERP), and whether these programs should and could be replaced by either a standing disaster program that does not undermine crop insurance or by further strengthening crop insurance, with the latter making the most sense if the goal is empowering producers with effective risk management tools uniquely tailored to their needs.
There are, of course, a lingering set of issues in the rollout of ERP, though the Administration certainly deserves high marks for working to use RMA data rather than have FSA recreate the wheel. National Sorghum Producers understands FSA continues to work through the problems with ERP so far, including relative to prevented plant, AGI, and delays in assistance to producers with supplemental coverage, such as SCO, ECO or STAX. These sorts of issues underscore the problems and unpredictability of ad hoc disaster programs, though producers certainly appreciate the help.
And, of course, outside of farm programs, the perennial issue of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will complicate this farm bill just as it has the previous two, especially given the decision by USDA to increase SNAP funding to the tune of a quarter trillion dollars last August, making any Farm Bill reauthorization a more than trillion dollar proposition, with the lion’s share going to nutrition, at a time when many lawmakers are trying to pare back federal spending to tame inflation.
So, if you are looking for excitement and a photo finish, the 2023 Farm Bill debate is bound to be a good option to watch up close and personal — and, more importantly, to put your shoulders into in making it a timely and solid piece of legislation from the perspective of the American farmer and rancher.
National Sorghum Producers is saddled up and ready to ride. Will you ride with us?
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2022 Issue of Sorghum Grower magazine.