House appropriators advanced fiscal 2024 USDA spending on a party-line vote but clawed back billions in unspent pandemic dollars to help offset program cuts. The 34-27 vote sends to the full House a 25 billion-dollar USDA/FDA discretionary spending bill with nearly $7.5 billion of that being unspent pandemic funds.
That allows Speaker McCarthy to keep a promise to rebellious Freedom Caucus conservatives to return spending to FY 2022–not 2023 levels–in McCarthy’s debt deal with the President. A switch that has Appropriations Democrats like Illinois’ Mike Quigley crying foul; “When the Speaker says, ‘we will go through the appropriations process and we will do the numbers that we just agreed to, I know you might read that differently, but if you put it into the whole, larger picture, it’s tougher and people get emotional.”
Especially over $32 billion in SNAP spending cuts from pandemic levels, new SNAP work requirements, and cuts to WIC, rural electric coops, FSA loan forgiveness, and rural clean energy. And then, there’s the farm bill, where AFB’s Dustin Sherer says debt deal numbers will again play a role.
Sherer; “Based on the budget deal that was made by Congress in the Fiscal Responsibility Act, it’s tapped at this year’s spending levels plus one percent for next year. And so, assuming that you abide by that when you account for inflation, there’s no new money for a farm bill.”
House Ag Chair G.T. Thompson wants to produce farm bill text before the August recess and pass a bill before the October 1st deadline, but Sherer is cautious after the debt limit fight. Sherer; “It sucked a lot of oxygen out of the room. And so, now that folks are able to focus on the work that needs to get done, I think that timelines can move up if they’re willing to do the work.”
Sherer admits it’s a split Congress before an election year in a tight fiscal environment, and a farm bill extension may still be needed, but he says AFB is hopeful for a new bill before the end of the fiscal year.