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More money needed for farm bill, says panel, eyeing climate funds

After describing the farm economy in apocalyptic terms, the House Agriculture Committee voted unanimously on Thursday to seek “additional resources … to enact a strong farm bill in 2023.”

The committee also said it would consider whether to divert all or part of the $20 billion awarded to the USDA for climate mitigation to other needy programs.

Committee members approved the request for additional funding, in a letter to the Budget Committee, after less than 15 minutes of consideration.

Despite two years in a row of record-high net farm income, the letter described agricultural conditions as strikingly similar “to the lead-up to the farm financial crisis of the 1980s.”

“Based on the conditions outlined above and early stakeholder feedback, we believe additional resources will be necessary to enact a strong farm bill in 2023,” said the committee letter. “With adequate resources, the committee believes it can craft an improved safety net that takes the pressure off policy makers to intervene every time a market or weather-related disaster strikes.”

The government has showered farmers with tens of billions of dollars in trade war, pandemic relief, and natural disaster payments since 2019.

In the climate, healthcare, and tax law enacted last summer, Congress allotted $20 billion to USDA and stewardship programs that prioritize practices that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase climate resiliency.

The Agriculture Committee said it “will be undertaking a thorough analysis of how these funds were allocated, including USDA’s ability to spend the funding provided, and will be working to ensure they are targeted to address the most critical conservation needs to maximize the environmental impact or address other related concerns in the farm bill.”

For the text of the letter to the Budget Committee, click here.

To watch a video of committee action on the letter, click here.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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