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AFF Sentinel V20 #52-Our Hybrid Farm Bill

Balancing Farm & Human Needs Is Difficult. Adding Climate & Activist Goals Makes It Harder


Steve Dittmer | AFF Sentinel

Colorado Springs, CO

Originally sent to subscribers 10/31/23


There is more than the usual chaos surrounding this Farm Bill, some of which has to do with Congressional delays and disruption and some of it is people trying to predict what will happen.


We actually heard analysts wondering if it would take until late 2024 or 2025 to get a Farm Bill, much less 2023.

We don’t think those crepe hangers are taking into account the determination of the new Speaker of the House and the motivation the House Republicans have to repair their image and get the remaining seven appropriations bills through the House.


That’s not to say there are not hurdles ahead. Observers are predicting with budget restraints in general and House Republicans goal of cutting federal spending there will be little or no increase in dollars available for the Farm Bill this time around. If there are cuts to be made, the fight centers around whether the cuts will come from farm programs or from the 84 percent of the Farm Bill that is nutrition programs for humans.


All the Democrats on the committee have sent a letter protesting that nutrition programs need more money, not cuts. There has been discussion of where cuts could be made in agriculture, many of which involve slowing or eliminating some programs mainly meant to advance climate change goals of the Biden administration, rather than traditional ag programs.


Part of the dissension is over Republicans trying to redirect some of the ag climate change funding included in last year’s Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) to other farm programs. According to Politico, a letter from the Democrats on the Ag Committee asked the chairman not to cut out any of the climate change provisions. The letter claims that since half of the Conservation Stewardship and EQIP since 2020 went to “climate smart” practices, that must mean those practices are in demand


They made no suggestion that that might be the case because that was what funding was available for, directed by the left’s climate change philosophy, rather than the best use and preferred desires of farmers and ranchers.


In some ways, the other piece of reasoning is pure liberal philosophy: there is more demand for assistance than there is money so the government needs to make more money available. When was the last time a government program, whether giveaway or cost sharing or loans were over-funded? When was the last time the recipients yelled stop, we don’t want any more, especially when the left or the enviro-zealots keep inventing new emergencies, climate projects and racial problems needing “solutions” ** always involving more money?


That Democrat letter was a response to Republicans discussing a list of $50 billion in clawbacks, a major portion of it coming from the IRA law. They are looking for money to fund commodity credit programs and crop safety net programs. The cuts might also have suggested cuts in some nutrition programs that have grown in recent years, especially during the pandemic.


Some Democrats were furious with Ranking Member David Scott for even making them aware of the Republicans’ list, when he had not agreed to anything. Apparently, Democrats even looking at a list of cuts is heresy.


Some of the things reported to be on the list were unspent IRA climate change funds, limits to future additions to the Thrifty Foods Plan and the Conservation Reserve, according to Politico.


President Trump used the Commodity Credit Corporation to compensate grain farmers hurt by the initial tariff wars and that likely makes it a target for some cuts. But Chairman Glenn Thompson said they need to find some ”pay-fors” to offset safety net needs, research and expanded trade tools.


The general media were quick to note some of the Farm Bill opinions from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF). It called for a “climate–smart” Farm Bill to help “stabilize the climate,” that would “incentivize emission reductions, increase financial support for “climate resilience” and invest in innovation to accelerate mitigation and adaption efforts. Not surprisingly, one of their GHG targets is “reducing methane emissions from livestock farming” and nitrous oxide emissions from “excess fertilizer.”


EDF also called for prioritizing help for beginning farmers, Black farmers and other historically underserved producers. We do agree with their opinion that more conservation technical assistance would be helpful.

The EDF also called for investing in “innovation, data and measurement,” which, to skeptics like us, sounds like hunting for information and data to clobber agriculture with.


We recall a smart lady from Texas who we heard several years ago in regard to endangered species. Activist groups were gathering and using data against agriculture, hunters and energy industries to reduce or eliminate use of natural resources by both private and governmental sectors. Her advice was for agriculture, sportsmen and energy industries to accumulate their own data ahead of time to benchmark and then fight the leftist groups in hearings and courtrooms. Agriculture needs to accelerate that data gathering for the same defensive approaches, as well as innovative purposes for our own progress.


“Better data, measurement and verification will be essential for knowing that agricultural emissions are decreasing and resilience is increasing,” the EDF goals proclaimed. They think the Farm Bill should move to gather consolidated data “in order to illuminate links between management changes, productivity and environmental outcomes.”


We were reminded of Ronald Reagan’s warning about “we’re from the government and we’re here to help you,” in EDF’s notions about crop insurance rewarding “climate resilience” and encouraging farmers to “diversify” their crops. Farmers rotating crops to improve nitrogen use and control weeds and volunteer corn is one thing. Satisfying climate zealots’ desire to diversify crop production because they think it would be better for their climate vision is another. They hate vast fields of corn or wheat.


Next time: Former Sec. of Agriculture Mike Johanns on the politics and numbers in the Farm Bill.


Contact info for House members:


Edi. Note: Picture below courtesy beef Check off).


 

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