INDIANAPOLIS — Late last month, U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La. was elected as the newest Speaker of the House. Just a day later, a group of Republican lawmakers, including two Indiana Republicans, are asking the House to prioritize the Farm Bill as the year nears its end.
In a letter sent to Johnson by a group of Republican lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Jim Baird, R-Ind. District 4 and U.S. Rep. Erin Houchin, R-Ind. District 9, on Oct. 26, the lawmakers highlighted “the critical importance of (the speaker’s) commitment to prioritizing American farm, ranch and forester families and the federal policies important to them throughout the remainder of the 118th Congress.”
This comes as the U.S. Congress has not yet passed a Farm Bill. According to previous reports, the 2018 legislation expired after the end of the 2023 fiscal year. While most programs funded by the 2018 legislation are expected to continue through the end of the year, the estimated $1.5 trillion bill in 2023 still needs to be passed.
The legislation, passed every five years, sets agriculture and nutrition policy for the United States. This includes funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, as well as:
- Commodity support
- Farm credit
- Crop insurance
- Agriculture and food defense.
Earlier this year, Hoosier lawmakers came together to help shape the state’s priorities for the 2023 legislation, stating that farmers from Indiana “make up the backbone of America.” Some of the state’s priorities include:
- Farm Safety Net
- Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) prevention
- Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development
In the new letter, lawmakers said that the food and agriculture sectors contributed $7.4 trillion in economic activity in 2022, while 43 million jobs were created, $2.3 trillion in wages were generated, $718 billion in tax revenue was generated and $183 billion in exports were generated.
The letter was also signed by other lawmakers, including U.S. Rep. Ronny Jackson, R-Texas District 13, U.S. Rep. John Duarte, R-Calif. District 13 and U.S. Rep. Ashley Hinson, R-Iowa District 2.
Lawmakers said that “simply put, farm and food security is national security,” which is why they believe the Farm Bill should be a priority.
“Americans today enjoy the safest, most abundant and affordable food supply in the world,” the letter reads. “And we accomplish this despite a global market that is awash in high and rising foreign subsidies, tariffs and other predatory, non-tariff barriers to free and fair trade. Farm country has also faced serious challenges straining the food supply chain throughout the last several years, including the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, weather-related disasters and skyrocketing input costs, underscoring the importance of the Farm Bill.”
The lawmakers said that with 1/5 of one percent of overall federal spending, the farm safety net, along with commodity support programs and crop insurance, can be paid for. The letter said these programs provide farmers and ranchers “the foundation they need to manage risk” so they can continue to produce “the highest quality, lowest cost food, fuel, fiber and forestry products in the world.”
“The Farm Bill is a critical agenda item that must be addressed this Congress,” the letter read. “We urge you and the Conference at-large to be united in ensuring swift passage of a strong Farm Bill that is written by farmers, for farmers and by rural communities, for rural communities – supporting the farm, ranch and forester families we represent. Thank you for your consideration. We look forward to working with you and our colleagues in the House to achieve the important objective of supporting farm country.”
In a post on social media which included the letter, Houchin said an effective Farm Bill is important to ensure the well-being of American farmers.
“We will continue advocating for our Ag producers as we work on reauthorization,” Houchin’s post read.
Brantley Seifers, the director of national government affairs for the Indiana Farm Bureau, told FOX59/CBS4 in September that figurative “alarm bells” will begin to sound in November if there is not progress on the next Farm Bill. Seifers said at the time that the bureau would like to see a 2023 bill, and not a 2024 bill.
“It would have significant impacts if we were to not get (the bill) extended and changed. So, what we’re looking at, this Farm Bill 2018 ends on Sept. 30,” he said. “A lot of those programs, however, are funded through the end of the year. But if we get to December 2023 without some extension or without a new farm bill, preferably a new farm bill, we’re going to have some trouble with the farm programs we depend on, (programs) our members depend on…”