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Bacon Discusses Priorities in 2024 Farm Bill

Washington – Last week, House Agriculture Chairman Glenn “G.T.” Thompson (R- PA) released his draft of the 2024 Farm Bill. This legislation is the product of nearly two years of work, and it shows. Farmers and ranchers, rural America, the food insecure, and the American taxpayers are well served in this bill. Rep. Don Bacon (NE-02), who has served on the Ag committee since 2017, highlighted some of his priorities in the bill.

Farm Safety Net Programs

American farmers and ranchers are experiencing one of the steepest declines in net farm income in history alongside record inflation. For too long, administrations have used the Commodity Credit Corporation as a “get out of jail” free card as an alternative to establishing lasting trade relations. As a result, from 2018 to 2022, 70 percent of all direct support to producers came from outside traditional farm support programs created and budgeted by Congress. As a result, this farm bill will repeal the President’s Section Five authority, saving $107 billion. Government payments cannot and will not replace the free market. Farmers and ranchers get underpaid when the government swoops in, and the administration’s failed foreign policy gets off scot-free. This is not fair to the American farmer and rancher or taxpayers.

As a result, Congressional intent is being asserted by forcing this Administration and future administrations to take accountability for their failures while ensuring the crop insurance and commodity support programs our nation’s food supply and our rural communities rely upon are preserved. Farm bill programs should not be for the good times, they should be for the bad times.

Congress will also be increasing reference prices for commodities like Corn, Soybeans, Wheat, and Sorghum. This will allow these programs to keep up with inflation and the economic uncertainty of the agricultural industry.

Trade is an integral part of the agricultural economy. For this reason, we will be doubling investment into the Marketing Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD) programs that promote agricultural trade. Studies have shown that for every dollar the U.S. government spends on this program, $24 of commerce is added to the U.S. economy. This program uses the power of the free market to bring economic prosperity to rural communities like Nebraska.

“When it comes to the issue of trade, this administration has been totally silent,” said Bacon. “Biden is the first President since Jimmy Carter to not establish a single new trade agreement. This has a real impact on American families, especially those who depend on agriculture to make a living. This investment in trade expansion will allow us to seek out new trade opportunities, expand existing ones, and pay the bills in the process.”

Conservation

The Biden Administration’s so-called “Inflation Reduction Act” (IRA) dedicated billions of taxpayer dollars to conservation programs with such stringent climate sideboard restrictions that important preexisting projects were neglected. This isn’t an effective climate policy agenda. For this reason, Congress will be reallocating those dollars into programs that are known to work like EQUIP and CSP without the crippling climate sideboards instituted by the Biden Administration. This reinvestment of funds will result in the largest investment in conservation in recent memory and more science-based, locally-led, and efficient conservation efforts across the nation that conserve nature.

I Believe in The Future of Agriculture

As someone who grew up on a farm in the fields of Illinois, Rep. Bacon is passionate about the next generation of farmers and ranchers. As part of his 2024 farm bill agenda, he made the next generation a priority.

“I am excited that Chairman Thompson included two of my bills about the next generation of farmers into the farm bill,” said Bacon. “The Youth Lead Act will ensure that organizations like 4-H and FFA have funding to continue making a difference in the lives of students through vocational agricultural education.”

“The SOIL Act will finally open the door for beginning farmers and ranchers to obtain financing by allowing producers to be preapproved for FSA Loans,” Bacon added. “Far too often, beginning farmers and ranchers are unable to be competitive when purchasing land. Purchasing farmland is seasonal and there is no reason young producers should be forced to wait months on end before receiving permission to purchase land.”

Under this legislation, these young Americans will be able to participate in auctions and not be forced to pass up good opportunities to acquire land. Just like how homebuyers can be preapproved for a mortgage, so too will these hard-working producers.

Agricultural Security is National Security

“Our national security and our agricultural industry are linked,” said Bacon. “There are only nine meals between civilization and total anarchy. For this reason, I introduced the American Agricultural Security Act of 2024, and I am happy that Chairman Thompson included it in this year’s farm bill.”

This bill will provide much-needed funding to our nation’s land grant institutions to research cyber, biological, physical, and trade threats to American agriculture. Adversaries like China are constantly looking to undermine our nation’s most vital industry and it is happening beneath our nose. We are behind the curve in combatting these efforts, however, this is the start we need to craft a national agriculture security strategy. The United States feeds the world and these efforts to disrupt this internationally connected industry threaten the stability of the entire world.

“I am happy to lead the AFIDA Improvements Act which also made it into this year’s farm bill,” said Bacon. “It addresses the national security concerns stemming from the growing purchases of farmland by the Chinese Communist Party. This legislation, among other things, will ensure that there is timely and detailed data sharing of foreign investments in agricultural land, better reviewing and validating of information, and identify those foreign entities who do not file notification they have purchased land in the United States.”

Having actual processes in place will strengthen the security of our nation in the event of nefarious foreign agents, such as the CCP, trying to purchase agricultural lands within our nation. These lands must be protected as they are essential to feeding our country and other parts of the world, feeding livestock, fueling vehicles, and other uses.

Nutrition and SNAP

“No Administration, current or future, should be allowed to arbitrarily change the level of benefits SNAP recipients receive without data-driven information,” said Bacon. “Until President Biden took office and changed it, the thrifty food plan, the market basket that SNAP is derived from, was completed on a cost-neutral basis since its creation in 1975. Because of this bill, the market basket will once again be cost neutral.”

That does not mean the hungry will go unfed, or that SNAP benefits will be cut,” he added.

Meanwhile, household income for those working and on SNAP is projected to increase by 10 percent due to an increase in the earned income deduction and children living in homes receiving SNAP benefits will be able to work without that income counting against household eligibility.

“By allowing those on SNAP to work without penalty, we are creating a system that rewards personal responsibility and working their way out of poverty,” said Bacon. “Chairman Thompson makes all these changes without taking dollars from any other title of the farm bill—the first time in nearly 40 years.”

Chairman Thompson’s bill also includes Rep. Bacon’s SNAP Staffing Flexibility Act which addresses important and pressing SNAP application backlogs.

“States are overwhelmed with the number of SNAP applications because they are suffering due to inflation and economic downturn, which can cause an influx of applications because families are struggling to stretch their grocery budget,” said Bacon.

To process more applications, H.R. 5094, The SNAP Staffing Flexibility Act of 2023, was introduced by Rep. Bacon and Rep. Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05), to give states the option to hire outside contractors during these periods to alleviate the workload of their employees and ends the contract when the backlog had been cleared.

“When people apply for SNAP benefits, it is because they are already struggling,” said Bacon. “Ensuring that their applications are processed promptly is important to getting people the assistance they need. In economically challenging times, giving the states, who are closer to the problem, more autonomy will result in better outcomes for applicants.”

Other programs such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and other safety net programs successfully utilize contractors to address backlogs, and H.R. 5094 would allow SNAP the same flexibility. Modernizing these programs will give states more control over their administrative process in a way that does not threaten the jobs of their current employees. These changes will lead to faster processing times, which means that families will get the assistance they need sooner.

“In addition to giving the food insecure the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty, we are increasing Congressional oversight and cracking down on SNAP fraud,” said Bacon.  “Every day, there is an estimated $34 million of SNAP overpayments made in the U.S., depriving Americans of their hard-earned money and compromising benefits to those who need it most. This bill will make certain States are reporting all erroneous payment errors, no matter how big or small.”

The loophole that allows SNAP benefits to be continuously used across state lines is also being closed. Far too many people in this country perpetrate the crime of SNAP benefit trafficking across state lines. This provision will finally force the USDA to crack down on this criminal industry.  States like New York and California have refused to publicize documents related to the administration of federal taxpayer dollars in their respective SNAP programs.

Congress is reasserting our Constitutional authority to conduct meaningful oversight of this federally funded state-run program. Waste, fraud, and abuse will be documented, investigated, and resolved more efficiently, and effectively because of these new provisions.

The Ag committee will “markup” the 2924 Farm Bill on Thursday, May 23 and decide which priorities of the entire committee make the final piece of legislation.

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