The 2023 Farm Bill is taking shape
It’s time to raise your voice about the next farm bill.
By Will Stafford, CHS Washington, D.C., representative
Agriculture policy in Washington, D.C., tends to be thought of in five-year intervals — that’s how often Congress is tasked with passing a piece of legislation that touches almost every aspect of agriculture and nutrition policy: the farm bill. First passed in 1933 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, farm bills authorize policies on commodities, conservation, crop insurance, nutrition, rural development and more.
The most recent farm bill was signed into law in 2018 and is due to expire in September 2023. While that may still seem a long way away, Congress has begun the process of creating the next farm bill, which will impact CHS owners well into the latter part of the decade.
Hearings by the House and Senate agriculture committees are already happening in Washington and around the country to examine the agricultural economy and determine what needs to be included in the next farm bill. Your representatives in Washington, D.C., are looking for input from their ag constituents and, through CHS and its government affairs team, cooperative owners will have a voice in the process.
Here are three things to watch as the next farm bill works its way through Congress.
Midterms will dictate direction of the farm bill
The midterm election in November 2022 has the potential to change the party in control in both chambers of Congress, which could have a drastic impact on elements of the next farm bill.
Agriculture committees in both the House and Senate are tasked with crafting the bill, with a member from the majority party chairing each committee. Democrats now control both the House and Senate, with Representative David Scott (D-Ga.) and Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) as chairs of each committee, respectively. With current polling suggesting Republicans will likely win back the House and possibly the Senate, control of each committee could change before a new farm bill is signed into law. If either the House or Senate flips to Republican control, the new chairs would likely be Representative G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.) for the House and Senator John Boozman (R-Ark.) for the Senate.
A shift in power could mean major changes for where funding within the bill is directed, such as agriculture versus nutrition policy. Geography could also play a role, with members of Congress from different regions of the country having different farm policy priorities due to key commodities in their respective states or districts.
It is also important to note that in the House, a simple majority can pass legislation. However, in the Senate 60 votes are needed to pass legislation. Bottom line: No matter which party controls the Senate, bipartisan support will likely be needed to pass a new farm bill.
It will be evolutionary, not revolutionary
New farm bills are intended to be written every five years for good reason — the agricultural economy can change a lot in five years! Our economy certainly looks different now than it did in 2018.
In some farm bills, we see large policy shifts that can have a dramatic impact on farmers, ranchers and consumers. Consider the 1938 Farm Bill that established the Federal Crop Insurance Program; the 1973 Farm Bill, which was the first to combine agriculture and nutrition programs; and the 2014 Farm Bill, which ended direct payments and introduced the Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC) programs.
Other farm bills focus on making small improvements to established programs. The current version of the farm bill made improvements to programs like ARC and PLC, allowing farmers to reelect which program they wanted to enroll in during the life of the bill. Early discussions regarding the 2023 Farm Bill seem to point to it being evolutionary, not revolutionary.
Conservation and sustainability will matter
Conservation and sustainability seem to be buzzwords in almost every aspect of life these days and could play a role in the next farm bill. Congressional Democrats have tried to increase funding for agriculture conservation programs through other legislation, such as the stalled Build Back Better Bill. That bill’s funding would include direct payments for farmers who plant cover crops. It is possible there may be additional efforts to increase conservation funding prior to passage of the next farm bill, but whether or not that happens, it is evident the conservation title of the 2023 Farm Bill will be debated.
CHS has urged members of Congress to make sure that any new conservation or sustainability programs are voluntary for farmers and ranchers and equitable across regions and crops, and that farmers and ranchers who already employ these practices are rewarded for early adoption, not left out of new programs.
Offer your input on the farm bill now
As Congress begins to craft the new farm bill, make sure your voice is heard by talking to your local cooperative, commodity organizations and members of Congress. Tell them which farm programs are important to you, which work and which aren’t meeting your needs. It is much easier to enact changes to legislation early in the process than waiting until decisions are made. You have a voice in Washington, D.C., through the CHS government affairs team. We are working every day to represent our owners.