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May 1, 2024
Senate, House make progress on Farm Bill

The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance (SCFBA) is applauding movement on a farm bill from the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.

Both bodies released summaries of their proposals on May 1, with Senate committee chair Debbie Stabenow describing that version, which contains more than 100 bipartisan bills, as “very mainstream.”

Both proposals would expand crop insurance coverage, tweak reference prices and potentially allow base acres additions. The proposals, however, differ on climate change, with the Senate version supporting programs to address it, and the House plan funding more conservation activities than the current bill, but not climate-related programs.

Each body hopes to push Congress to pass a new bill this year.

After months of talks and delay, the leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees each laid out separate farm-bill proposals on Wednesday with goals of pushing Congress to pass a new bill this year. The current bill, which expires Sept. 30, extended policies enacted by the 2018 Farm Bill.

House Agriculture chair Glenn “GT” Thompson said a panel will mark up the House proposal on May 23.

“I hope for unanimous support in this endeavor to bring stability to producers, protect our nation’s food security and revitalize rural America,” Thompson said in a statement.

The SCFBA is a national coalition of more than 200 specialty crop organizations representing growers of fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, tree nuts, nursery plants and other products. In early 2023, the alliance released a set of policy priorities as part of its Farm Bill recommendations.

“The Specialty Crop Farm Bill Alliance commends House Agriculture Committee Chairman Thompson and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow for their work in moving the 2024 farm bill process forward,” according to the May 1 SCFBA statement. “The specialty crop industry plays a vital role in American agriculture and in supporting the health and wellbeing of all Americans. It’s imperative that the 2024 farm bill build on a strong record of federal investments in valuable programs and establish new and innovative tools to enhance the competitive position of specialty crop growers across the country.

“The status quo is not sustainable for America’s specialty crop growers, and seemingly small enhancements to farm bill programs could have a transformational impact on the specialty crop industry.”

The House summary says the farm bill would include conservation funding by reallocating money provided by a 2022 clean energy law.

Democrats want the 2022 money to be used to address climate change. The Senate proposal would move the money into the farm bill’s conservation title, where it would only be available to fund climate-smart programs.

Food stamp benefits also remain contentious.

The House framework includes adding $14 billion from the Inflation Reduction Act to the baseline for conservation investments and enhancing crop insurance options.

“We are encouraged that both frameworks appear to include key investments for specialty crops and look forward to reviewing the details as they become available,” according to the SCFBA. “This is an important step in the legislative process — one we hope to build on by working with leaders in the House and Senate. We urge bipartisan collaboration as Congress moves through the process to ensure a farm bill is signed into law this year.”


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