House lawmakers appear to have hit a snag over using money from the 2022 health, climate and tax law to help pay for the farm bill.
Members of both parties staked out positions on use of money appropriated in the 2022 law, with Democrats saying they would oppose an effort to repurpose the money and House Agriculture Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., saying opponents are “thinking pretty simplistic.”
Thompson declined to say Tuesday when he would bring a bill before the committee. He has in the past offered target dates even if he hasn’t been able to meet them. Congress passed a one-year extension, giving lawmakers until Sept. 30 to iron out differences or consider another extension.
But disagreement between the two sides could be an obstacle for a bill that is typically bipartisan. By combining agriculture programs with nutrition programs, the bill gets support from both parties.
House Democrats released a principles document Wednesday saying they wouldn’t support a farm bill that takes conservation funding in the 2022 law away from its intended purpose.
“We are continuing to do everything that we can to preserve and sustain the resources that have been appropriated in the [Inflation Reduction Act],” Rep. Shontel Brown, D-Ohio, said during a Democratic press call on the principles.
House Agriculture ranking member David Scott, D-Ga., said Republicans are pushing to funnel funding from the law into a commodity safety net to help pay for the bill. The law appropriated $19.5 billion to the Agriculture Department for conservation programs to mitigate the impact of climate change.
But Thompson said using that funding would “help us close the gap of being able to fund this highly effective farm bill.” He said the funding would be directed to priorities that have been identified as bipartisan and that he expects the farm bill to “generate over the course of time, a significant amount of additional funding for conservation programs which are important to me.”
He didn’t say how much IRA conservation funding he intends to put in the farm bill, only that “a good part of it would stay in conservation, part of it would come out of conservation.”
The Democrats’ document also said energy funding from the 2022 law is another redline issue. “Providing farmers and rural communities with the ability to diversify into bioenergy and renewable energy increases profits and helps operations weather cycles of low crop prices, creates jobs, and will lead to a more secure and resilient energy supply,” the document says.
Democrats and Republicans may also be at odds over treatment of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP.
Thompson said he doesn’t see SNAP as the most controversial element of the bill because nutrition is an important issue to him. “Food security is national security,” he said.
But Scott said Republicans effectively want to decrease funding for SNAP by $30 billion over 10 years by making the Thrifty Food Plan cost-neutral. The USDA uses the Thrifty Food Plan to determine SNAP benefits.
The 2018 farm bill required the plan to be reevaluated every five years, and the USDA’s update in 2021 resulted in a 21 percent increase in benefits, bringing criticism from Republicans unhappy that SNAP is accounting for a larger part of the farm bill. The Republicans have added work conditions on some recipients and otherwise sought to rein in the cost.
Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., has also said she will resist making SNAP budget-neutral, last year calling it “a real flashpoint in getting a farm bill done.”
The Congressional Research Service says the nutrition title was 84 percent of the farm bill’s Congressional Budget Office budget baseline in 2023, up from 76 percent when the 2018 bill was enacted.
The CBO’s 10-year cost projection through fiscal 2033 shows SNAP would account for $1.2 trillion out of a nearly $1.5 trillion baseline for the farm bill.
Thompson said his “focus right now is on the House doing its job and responsibilities.” He said he would like to announce a chairman’s mark but doesn’t know when that will be and is “just looking for all the stars to line up.”