U.S. Farm Bill may not reach the finish line in 2023

Many producers and industry professionals across the United States are focused on the next Farm Bill, the overarching program most similar to the Ag Policy Framework in Canada. There is still plenty to be determined on not only what is in the bill, but also when it will finally get done.

The Farm Bill includes several programs, including conservation programs, lending programs, rural development, and nutrition.

On conservation and climate, Canadian policy leans towards a compliance model. But as Dr. Joe Outlaw, professor and extension economist with Texas A&M explains to RealAg Radio host Shaun Haney at the Northern Pulse Growers Association AGM at Minot, North Dakota, the U.S. is very keen on staying with a voluntary system.

“One of the things that people tend to forget is we have a significant significant set of conservation programs already [and] that many of them are aligned with climate practices and those specific goals,” he explains.

One of the main focuses for the U.S. in this bill, says Outlaw, is the Inflation Reduction Act that was passed. As he explains, you essentially have a situation where funding for conservation programs in the country has almost doubled.

“All of it has to be done in the name of conservation, or carbon sequestration. Cover crops and reduced tillage are things farmers are already doing. One of the big fights we’re going to have this time on the Farm Bill is this whole question of additionally,” he explains. “If I’m someone paying for carbon credits, I want to make sure that I’m getting the bang for my buck — new sequestration. We’re going to have a whole lot of producers finding a disc somewhere, and discing up land. So we need to figure out something about that.” (Story continues below interview)

This Farm Bill is going to be negotiated without some of the Farm Bill stalwarts, like former House Representative Collin Peterson. As Outlaw explains in the interview, this is going to require people to step up in a bipartisan way, in order to push whatever this Farm Bill ends up looking like across the finish line.

Speaking of the finish line, there is significant doubt that it does not make it there in 2023 — and not for a lack of trying.

“Today I’m going to say that I don’t think it happens this year. Not that folks aren’t going to try, and they’re going to try hard. So maybe it happens. But I just think that Washington politics is such right now that it’s going to be very difficult to move a bill.”

Extensions happen regularly, but the problem is that farmers are looking for some certainty on what is going to happen, and what will be legislated.

“If it takes long enough for them to get the programs put in place, they will announce we’re going to go with the old programs for this year, as we’re finished deliberation, and we’ll have the new programs take effect the next crop year.”

So far, commodity groups across the U.S. seem to be in lockstep, saying they don’t want to get into a regional fight or a commodity fight — what they want is higher prices that would provide that basic level of support. They know what it’s going to cost — the question now is when can it get done?

Related:

Considering the long-term opportunities of the U.S. carbon market system

 

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