USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack says it’s premature to ask if billions in Inflation Reduction Act conservation funds can be transferred to the upcoming farm bill, even as the need will likely exist. The decision will be up to Congress, but Vilsack and the administration will have a say in whether to use some of the Inflation Reduction Act’s $16 billion for programs like EQIP and CSP for the new farm bill.
But asked about that during a December press call, Vilsack said it’s too early to decide.
“At this point in time, we don’t know what the specific baseline is going to be from CBO…we don’t know what demands there very well may be on the existing farm bill programs, and any modifications or changes…we don’t know what savings could potentially be occurring from programs that are currently in the farm bill baseline that could be, because of lack of demand or because of changes, or whatever, might actually, create a set of savings.”
But Vilsack says he heard directly from farm groups at the COPS 26 climate conference in Egypt; “There was a genuine expression to me for maintaining and keeping the conservation resources as they have been appropriated under the Inflation Reduction Act.”
But the question remains if some of those resources can be repurposed to meet rising farm bill costs from input inflation, low existing support levels, disasters, war, and supply chain problems. Doing so may require spending offsets somewhere else. But no one doubts the next farm bill will be a ‘heavy lift,’ for no other reason than the cost of farming has risen dramatically from the 2018 farm bill.