Dennis Sun: What's Happening with the Farm Bill?

Columnist Dennis Sun writes, "The five-year 2018 Farm Bill ended on Sept. 30, which is frustrating and problematic for those in agriculture."

Dennis Sun

November 04, 20233 min read

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(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

The five-year 2018 Farm Bill ended on Sept. 30, which is frustrating and problematic for those in agriculture.

We all know how important this bill is to the agriculture industry, not only for those in agriculture, but because over three-quarters of the bill goes to food stamps and other social programs as well.

The new Speaker of the House of Representatives Mike Johnson (R-LA) has sent a letter to his fellow U.S. House members saying he expects to begin negotiations on the upcoming farm bill as soon as possible, once the Senate passes its own version of the legislation.

Also, 61 House Republicans called on Johnson for a speedy passage of the new farm bill, despite a poor outlook for the legislation.

Most of the work on the farm bill is at an impasse among farm-state lawmakers over funding for crop and climate-smart programs, not to mention raising food stamp eligibility.

The U.S. House has yet to pass any of the backlog of appropriations bills for government agencies and the Nov. 17 deadline expiration of stopgap funding for the whole government.

Republican members of the House want to finalize the new farm bill, as they represent most of rural America. In fact, more than 92 percent of our nation’s planted acres are represented by Republican members of the House. 

Additionally, a large number of Democrats want to ensure funding from the Inflation Reduction Act for mitigating climate change.

On the negative side, there are numerous reasons a farm bill may not be passed this year.

The main reasons are because Congress is embroiled in political dysfunction and some lawmakers have a hard time getting along and getting things done, which hinders those who are trying to accomplish something. Basically, there are too many lines drawn in the sand.

Also, there is a lack of urgency, and of course, as 2024 draws nearer, we will not only have the presidential election, but congressional elections as well.

Ag economists say we currently have a healthy agriculture economy, and they don’t see this changing in 2024. Although I believe this is a good thing, we still need a farm bill. Inflation is eating away a large part of profits in the agriculture industry, as well as across the nation.       

While Johnson, among others, wants to pass a farm bill this year, some are simply asking for an extension.

“Historically, when we get the alignment of a farm bill with the presidential election cycle, we tend to see people want to wait until after the cycle to see what changes – either colors over the White House or within the house of Congress itself,” says Jackson Tackach, chief economist with Farmer Mac.

University of Missouri Ag Economist Scott Brown says a farm bill extension is needed.

“We don’t want to revert to permanent law. There are reasons to get the extension done so we don’t see the U.S. Department of Agriculture starting to implement any of those permanent law provisions, most of which become more biting once we get to Jan. 1,” he says.

Farm bills take months of work, even when everyone is in the mood to cooperate. There is no telling how long this farm bill will take with the politics and egos in Congress today.

Dennis Sun is the publisher of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, a weekly agriculture newspaper available in print and online.

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Dennis Sun

Agriculture Columnist