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Debt Limit Deal if Passed to Impact Farm Bill Funding, Contours

Congressional leaders and the White House reached an agreement on extending the debt limit. The new agreement is expected to reach the House floor for debate by Wednesday. The two sides reached an agreement including compromises on work requirements in the SNAP program.

Chris Gibbs, Board President of Rural Voices USA, says now that the agreement has been reached, it’s time for Congress to get it passed. “Rural America would be hammered by default and its cascading impacts on retirement savings, farm credit, access to capital, benefits, and more,” he says. “In addition to avoiding this politically-manufactured crisis, Congress needs to get back to the legislating business.”

Gibbs also says it’s time to invest in rural America through healthcare and education, expanding new markets for American agricultural products, and protecting every American’s right to vote. With SNAP work requirements settled, it should provide a somewhat smoother path toward the next farm bill.

The GOP-White House debt limit deal, if enacted, will have a direct bearing on how much farm bill writers get and how they shape farm policy to meet the growing needs of producers for the next five years. Producers fighting input inflation, trade barriers, bad weather, and supply chain issues testified they need better and more responsive farm bill price supports and crop insurance.

But the debt limit deal that freezes non-entitlement spending, exempts defense and boosts SNAP work requirements could make that a tall order, depending on how scarce dollars, including SNAP savings, are rearranged.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who raised the possibility of a no-new-money farm bill at one hearing, told farm reporters just before the debt limit and spending deal; “The overall spending of the farm bill is directly related to what the top line that comes out of these negotiations. If there’s an agreement for more work requirements, it’s going to make it easier for those of us who want work requirements, that it would override a lot of Democrats, saying they don’t want any work requirements at all.”

Among them, House Ag Ranking Democrat David Scott (D-GA), who cited one study that looked at broader proposals than that finally agreed to in the debt deal that covers ‘able-bodied adults without dependents.’  Scott; “Three million parents and grandparents of school-age children are at risk of losing their SNAP benefits. That impacts more than four million children and another two million older adults without children.”

Ag Chair Glenn GT Thompson (R-PA) acknowledged GOP efforts to rein in spending but agreed in a bipartisan March Ag panel letter to the Budget Committee to seek sufficient farm bill funds to meet current needs. Thompson; “The farm safety net, commodity programs, and crop insurance combined make up just two-tenths of one percent of all federal spending.”

But the lion’s share of the farm bill, just over 80 percent, goes for SNAP and other nutrition programs, giving more urban Democratic lawmakers an incentive to vote for it, or this year, a possible reason to vote against it.

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