Federal budget casts shadow as 2023 Farm Bill deadline looms

Congress grapples with funding, politics and SNAP benefits in a race against time.

Right now in Washington, Capitol Hill lawmakers are in a race against time, and the 2023 Farm Bill might be caught in the crossfire. With no new legislation in sight as their deadline approaches, agricultural lawmakers are grappling with a series of challenges that threaten to delay the passage of this critical piece of legislation.

The Reality: A Nine-Month Extension

Sen. John Boozman, the Republican from Arkansas and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee said, candidly, it will likely be nine more months before anything resembling comprehensive farm policy passes is written and passed.

Their biggest obstacle? The federal budget.

As lawmakers work tirelessly to avoid a government shutdown, funding for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is already secured through the end of the year. Historically, Farm Bills take about nine months to pass after their expiration—and this timeline appears to be holding true for the 2023 Farm Bill.

Funding the Farm Bill: A Costly Challenge

The stakes are high for this year’s Farm Bill, which is shaping up to be the most expensive one to date. However, many lawmakers want to ensure the Farm Bill does not become a political battleground.

"[The] Farm Bill should not be a divisive area,” said House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY). “It is fertile ground for cooperation, and for common ground, and for coming together.”

Despite the call for unity, fiery debate over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits emerged early on in Farm Bill discussions. Some Congressional members are pushing for stricter work requirements, which could add another layer of complexity to the already challenging bill. With the nutrition title taking the majority of the legislative spotlight, other lawmakers have even suggested splitting it off from the rest of the Farm Bill and discussing it as a separate
issue.

Budget Battles & Farm Bill Extensions, Oh My!

The current Farm Bill is set to expire next week, at the end of September, and with no new legislation in sight, it is all tied to the appropriations battle currently underway. The House has not passed its version of the Agriculture Appropriations Bill, and it might be a week before the vote takes place in the Senate.

Differences between the bills, including the extremely low funding allocations in the House, will likewise need to be worked out in a conference committee. To prevent a government shutdown, a continuing resolution is expected by the end of the month, which could extend the current Farm Bill through the beginning of 2024. Lobbyists, The Russell Group, suggests that this extension is all but inevitable given the current circumstances.

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