The fate of a new farm bill rests not just with Ag lawmakers, but House and Senate appropriators and leaders feuding about spending and border issues, eating up precious floor time in an election year.
Passing a long-overdue farm bill is tough enough given partisan differences over funding farm versus feeding programs, made worse by election-year politics. But add in other fights over languishing spending bills, border security, foreign military aid, and a major tax bill, and farm bill odds look dimmer this year.
West Virginia GOP Senator and Appropriator Shelly Moore Capito, “The farm bill. There’s another major piece of legislation that’s coming before us that impacts food supply, nutrition, our Ag community, and many, many, many, many jobs all across this country. And yet, we’re in another extension.”
The extension came after the 2018 farm bill expired four months ago, and writing a new one’s been held up by appropriations gridlock likely to continue at least into March and two new shutdown deadlines.
Capito says, “In the last 13 months, we’ve only spent eight hours on appropriations. This is a major responsibility for the Senate and the House and the president to get this right every year. We are now six months behind.” With only short-term stop-gap bills keeping the government funded.
House Ag Chair Glenn Thompson has said he wants to start farm bill action in March but has made getting available floor time a condition. But that will hinge on ending a spending standoff between the House GOP and Senate Democrats as one side tries to wait out the other.
Capito adds, “Six months ago, we will have passed out of committee every single bill. And yet, except for the three we passed in, I believe in late October, early November, no action – crickets – by the leadership here.”