Farm bill season is upon us

Dave Bergmeier

As agricultural producers turn their thoughts to spring planting, they are also keeping a watchful and hopeful eye on Congress as it continues to work its way toward the passage of a 2023 farm bill.

During the recent “Ag and Food Policy Summit” organized by Agri-Pulse, a diverse group of presenters and speakers offered a positive message and yet they also know it will also take a roll-up their sleeves mentality if the bill can get finished by Sept. 30. The current five-year law expires then.

As with any large federal government program it will take time. As an example, Congressman Glenn “GT” Thompson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said on a bipartisan basis lawmakers are moving forward in good faith and he expects many hearings in the upcoming months. He is optimistic that the Senate and House will get a new law in place by Oct. 1. The leaders of both halls, Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-MI, and Ranking Member John Boozman, R-AR, and Thompson’s counterpart Ranking Member David Scott, D-GA, work together well.

All of the key people share a common goal of having a farm bill that will be approved on time and effective for American agriculture and for all Americans, Thompson said.

It will not be without challenges, he said, as there are different views on the nutrition title. But there is common ground as he has seen the programs be effective and believes in the concept of “neighbors helping neighbors.” It also should have flexibility that includes work requirements for able-bodied recipients, but also serve as a safety net for people who are working poor, which means they require a level of help in the hopes they can find a path to a better job.

He has also embraced the importance of healthy foods that should be a part of the offerings. While fraud occurs, he said the facts do not bare out widespread abuse though his belief is that each dollar lost in fraud is monies that are unavailable to help a needy child or family.

Other speakers also shared their perspective about the state of the farm economy. While headlines may state that farm income was forecast at $136.9 billion for calendar year 2023, as noted by the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service, the same service noted the challenges of higher input costs and lower direct government payments are expected.

Those alarm bells have been sounding off as nearly every farm group has been asking Congress to maintain crop insurance and if that means adding dollars to the new bill is a good investment. We agree with that approach but acknowledge how much that can be earmarked may mean offsets in other areas.

The 2023 farm bill is going to need farmers and ranchers sharing their views with their elected officials and their respective staffs to make sure the law provides incentives for them to continue to be innovative. They are likely to need a backstop so their lenders have confidence, too.

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].