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Farm Bill Could Face Further Delays

Politico’s Garrett Downs reported this past week that the continuing resolution (CR) passed on Jan. 18 to avert a government shutdown and fund the federal government until early March could derail House Ag Committee Chairman “Rep. G.T. Thompson’s (R-Pa.) optimistic plans to move the House version of the farm bill that same month (March).”

“Thompson last week told reporters that he was still planning to move the more than $1 trillion agriculture and food bill in March when there are three consecutive weeks of session,” Downs wrote. “But he told MA that ‘these funding bills always can be an issue for other good legislation,’ when asked about a CR ending in March.”

Previous Farm Bill Delays

Any delays to progress on moving a new Farm Bill in March would only add to an ever-increasing set of delays and roadblocks the Farm Bill has already faced over the last year, Farm Progress reporter Joshua Baethge wrote.

“The 2018 Farm Bill officially expired on Sept. 30, (2023)” Baethge wrote. “At the time Congress was hammering out a last-minute continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown. That budget compromise funded government agencies through mid-November.”

In response to that budget compromise, Baethage reported, U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was removed from his post and replaced by current Speaker Mike Johnson. Just a few weeks later, Congress was facing the new, mid-November funding deadline and once again passed a short term funding bill, according to Reuters’ reporting at the time by Leah Douglas.

“The spending bill passed by the House on Tuesday and Senate on Wednesday funds government functions through January 19 and includes a one-year extension of the 2018 bill farm bill, which expired on September 30,” Douglas wrote in mid-November.

The extension bought lawmakers more time to work on a new Farm Bill, but “if Congress is still considering appropriations then (March), all bets are off,” Baethge wrote.

Further Delay Concerns

Both Downs and Baethge reported that some lawmakers — especially on the Republican side — are becoming more concerned that movement on a Farm Bill is likely further away from starting than is expected.

“Some GOP lawmakers are starting to privately expect that a farm bill won’t move until after the November elections, if it does at all this Congress.”

“Some GOP lawmakers are starting to privately expect that a farm bill won’t move until after the November elections, if it does at all this Congress,” Downs wrote. “A lame duck farm bill however is a heavy lift.”

Some farmers, too, believe that it could be until 2025 before a new Farm Bill is passed, according to Brownfield reporting by Larry Lee. Lee reported that Cassandra Coball, with the Torrey Advisory Group, said “with the one-year extension, lawmakers don’t feel as much pressure to get the farm bill done. ‘Recognizing, especially the talk about funding the government going into March, and then the realization that we’re in an election year so with each month, it gets a little bit more difficult to pass, especially an important piece of legislation like the farm bill.'”

And with little movement on appropriations bills over the last six months, despite facing several funding deadlines, reaching a bipartisan appropriations deal will likely continue to take up time, Ted McKinney, CEO of the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture, said in an interview with Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, according to Agri-Pulse’s Philip Brasher, Steve Davies, and Noah Wicks.

“”Anything that delays the farm bill, and the floor time to get a farm bill going, hurts the farm bill,’ McKinney said, according to Brasher, Davies, and Wicks. “The appropriations process is eating ‘ever so slowly, ever so steadily, into the time that would be needed, and is needed for the farm bill,’ he said.”

Still, there is belief among some analysts that a Farm Bill won’t be entirely forgotten in 2024, according to Baethge.

“On the bright side, most analysts say there is next to no chance that lawmakers will allow the farm bill to expire during an election year,” he wrote. “If there is no progress toward a new bill by summer, the chances of another extension will likely grow.”

Ryan Hanrahan is the farm policy news editor and social media director for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked in local news, primarily as an agriculture journalist in the American West. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri (B.S. Science & Agricultural Journalism).

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