Feb. 12, 2024
Source: House Ag Committee Chair Glenn Thompson as it appeared on Agri-Pulse
These men and women have struggled with fractured supply chains, considerable input costs, relentless inflation, natural disasters, volatile markets, and labor shortages, each consistently worsened by ill-conceived, half-baked Executive action by unelected bureaucrats in Washington.
In what is seemingly a daily occurrence, the Department of Agriculture sends taxpayer dollars to every corner of the country under the guise of relief, yet nothing has changed. We are not producing more fertilizer. We are not reducing the cost of production for our farmers. We are not making food more affordable.
However, we are burdening the taxpayer. We are losing ground on the world stage. For the first time in more than 30 years, America has become a net agricultural importer. We are reliant on others for our security and our prosperity.
At a time when our agricultural sector should be unleashed as an engine for growth and stability both at home and abroad, we are less independent, less resilient, and less competitive. This is not the American way.
A farm bill is the best opportunity for Congress to change the path we are on and revitalize the rural communities that are the backbone of our nation. It is an opportunity that typically comes around once every five years. It would be a failure to let this window of opportunity pass us by without making key improvements.
As Chairman, I have been clear in my intent: Congress can and must craft a bipartisan farm bill that aligns the farm safety net with the needs of producers, expands market access and trade promotion opportunities, strengthens program operations to demand transparency and accountability to the taxpayer, and reinforces not only the importance of helping our neighbors in need but doing so without indiscriminate expansion of our nutrition safety net.
Creating a robust and resilient farm bill is virtually impossible without reforms and significant new investment. Considerable opportunities exist to reinforce not only the safety net but also a substantial number of shared, bipartisan priorities across all 12 titles that are vital to the rural economy. Many of these priorities have been outlined publicly and, in total, exceed $75 billion. I have spent the better part of a year working with colleagues and have taken arrows and public missives at every turn. But I am the only one who has put forth an actual plan to move a farm bill and pay for the bipartisan requests.
The Inflation Reduction Act, a partisan exercise spearheaded by Washington elites ignorant of the American farmer's needs, is the first opportunity for reinvestment. Because of the process utilized, this increased conservation funding peaks in 2026, and ultimately, all funds expire in 2031. These dollars, riddled with climate sideboards and Federal bureaucracy, should be refocused toward programs and policies that allow the original conservationists--farmers--to continue to make local decisions that work for them. Not to mention allowing Congress to establish a baseline, ensuring stable funding for such programs forever.
The Thrifty Food Plan, the market basket used to determine Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, has long been a wonky methodology used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and, for decades, was indifferent to politics. The Biden Administration weaponized the market basket update, using an unchecked and shoddy process that added more than $250 billion to the taxpayers' tab. Correcting this blatant disregard for Congress--while not cutting nor decreasing benefits for families in need--is the second opportunity to repurpose dollars for the litany of bipartisan priorities, both in nutrition policy and otherwise.
Lastly, and little known to many, the Secretary of Agriculture has long had access to a credit card known as the Commodity Credit Corporation. The majority of this line of credit is used--via Congressional authority--to provide a variety of assistance to producers. However, there remains an ability to use dollars for discretionary reasons, including responses to natural disasters and market disruption. What it is not meant for is to accommodate the whims of either party's Administration. I want to pare back the level of discretion, reassert the role of Congress in determining how federal dollars are spent, and reinvest those dollars directly into the people who provide the food, fiber, and fuel for not only our great nation but the world.
Washington, D.C., is filled with armchair pundits who lack sincerity. Instead of coming to the table with ideas, too many politicians go out of their way to work against you. Folks think a farm bill is impossible. That politics will prevail over good policy. That the dysfunction surrounding us has enveloped us. Every comment intensifies my commitment to the American farmer: I am on your side.
Rural America deserves a farm bill that advances agriculture's mandate--to efficiently provide our citizens and the world with reliable access to abundant and affordable food, fiber, and energy resources. It's an opportunity to advance our country's independence, economic resiliency, and global competitiveness, an opportunity that will require leaders in Congress to set aside politics and focus on policymaking. I am at the table; I hope my colleagues across the aisle join me.