June 20, 2024

Along with hunger and climate cuts, the U.S. House of Representatives’ draft farm bill stands little chance in the Senate

The U.S. House Agriculture Committee on Friday filed a long-awaited farm bill that includes cuts to food aid for the poor and support for farmers fighting climate change, drawing opposition from Democrats.

With the Republican-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-dominated Senate still far apart, the chances of passage of the farm bill this legislative session are slim. The legislation is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

Legislation to fund food, conservation and natural resources programs is traditionally passed every five years. The 2018 law expired in September and Congress extended it by one year. Lawmakers could do it again if they fail to pass new legislation.

A bill advanced by the House Agriculture Committee would cut spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which funds food assistance for low-income families, by $27 billion over 10 years, a committee staffer said.

Savings come from restricting the Department of Agriculture’s authority to update costs to a model food budget used to calculate benefits.

Anti-hunger groups have said they will oppose any cuts.

The House bill would eliminate $14.4 billion for climate-smart agricultural practices provided as part of the 2022 Inflation Relief Act. That money will go toward all the conservation initiatives that Democrats and environmental groups want to fight.

Democrat Debbie Stapenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, called the idea a “non-starter.” The White House has also pledged to protect the fund.

A Republican committee member said the measure would increase long-term protection funding for farmers and give states more control over how the money is spent.

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House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GD” Thompson plans to bring the bill up for a committee vote on May 23.

Stapenow, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, and his Democrat colleague, David Scott, said in a statement Wednesday that the plan would “separate the broad, bipartisan coalition that has always been the bedrock of successful farm legislation.”

The Senate Agriculture Committee released a summary of its version of the bill on May 1, but not the text of the legislation.

Both committees must adjust their bills before sending the bill to the full House for a vote. If the bill passes, President Joe Biden must sign it. (Reporting by Leah Douglas; Editing by Timothy Gardner and Cynthia Osterman)