Farm Bill Tension: Congressional ag committees take jabs following CBO report

Leaders of the Congressional Ag Committees are trading jabs over Farm Bill proposals after this week’s report from the Congressional Budget Office.

The CBO decreased its estimates for SNAP by 5 percent for years 2025-2034, coming out to around $59 billion. The Office says it is largely because of a reduction in the projection of average benefits. There were also changes to the Commodity Credit Corporation.

In response, Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow released a statement, saying, “Today’s updated projections from CBO prove what we have been saying all along: The House Republican farm bill is unpaid-for, relying on magic math and wishful thinking. It’s time to get real and stop the posturing and the rhetoric. It’s time to negotiate in reality. My door is open.”

In response, House Ag Committee Chair GT Thomspon said, “Simply put, the retiring senator from Michigan still has no bill text, no funding mechanism, and no bipartisan support for her proposals, but the House will continue its work on our committee-passed, bipartisan, legislative text in pursuit of a five-year Farm Bill. While we appreciate the difficult job of CBO, there are still clear discrepancies between their forecasts and historic realities. We will continue to work with the Budget Committee to ensure scores reflect the reality of how Section 5 authority has been used since 2018.”

However, the new projections from the CBO do not sit well with some lawmakers, including Senator Chuck Grassley, who says he wants to see how they do their calculations.

“I’d have more confidence in them if they would be able to show us their numbers, how they arrived at that decision, and they’re reluctant to do it. In fact, I don’t know if they even do it at all. But if you’re an economist making a judgment of something that cost and you’re intellectually honest, you ought to be able to tell us how you arrived at that decision and show us the statistics or whatever formula you use, or whatever considerations you took into. We ought to have all that. Knowledge. So I don’t think they’re doing that yet.”

While arguments over SNAP continue, other lawmakers say the focus needs to be on farmers and their needs. Senator Roger Marshall says he is not a fan of the framework he has seen from Democrats, and he wants discussions to continue.

“I don’t think that they adequately address crop insurance. I don’t think that they adequately addressed the Title One funding, and something that very few people were talking about is that farmers would not be eligible for a lot of the classical conservation programs that we’ve been using. They put such stringent guardrails around those conservation programs that we weren’t able to use them. And even, you know, to take it a step further, they were putting air quality control issues that would have driven the Nebraska hog raiser out of business and the Kansas and Nebraska cattle raisers out of business as well. So, we needed to do some work on their conservation rules.”

Senate Chair Debbie Stabenow is still hopeful a new Farm Bill can get passed before her final term in office is over later this year. However, she says she will not allow any cuts to nutrition just to see it pass and is calling for more negotiations.