Farm bill discussions will have to wait when Congress returns from August recess

An ag lobbyist says the 2023 Farm Bill will take a back seat to the appropriations bills when Congress returns to work following its August recess.

Mary Kay Thatcher with Syngenta says if a deal isn’t reached by September 30 the situation gets more complicated.  “It could be that we have three or four of these bills that are funded,” she says.  “We could see the ag appropriations bill done by September 30th and then USDA wouldn’t shut down, it would be other sections.”

But, she tells Brownfield, there are some caveats.  “The very right-wing Republicans have worked to deal into the bill where unless all 12 appropriations bills get done, there’s an automatic 1% across the board cut to every department’s budget,” she says. “So, then you look at somebody like agriculture and, even if they’re open, they have to go in and figure out where they take the 1%.  Is it across the board?  Do we take it all out of conservation programs?  Do I take it out of forestry?  That will be a big challenge for whatever department is trying to do that.”

Thatcher says there are still concerns about pushing a farm bill debate into 2024 because of the election cycle.  “However, I think if we do it early, January, February, March that are still relatively campaign-free,” she says.  “Certainly, primaries are ongoing, but you can get a lot done in the first three or four months of the year. Now if it drags on beyond that, it’s going to be much more difficult.”

Thatcher says US Senator Debbie Stabenow’s looming retirement at the end of 2024 should help get a farm bill across the finish line.

AUDIO: Mary Kay Thatcher, Syngenta

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