February 12, 2024
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In Case You Missed It: Farm Bill Money Out of Reach in Republican Leadership’s Lockbox

WASHINGTON – Today, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member David Scott had an op-ed titled "Farm Bill Money Out of Reach in Republican Leadership's Lockbox" published by Agri-Pulse. Read it below.

When House Democrats published our farm bill principles earlier this week, one wry agricultural commentator quipped: “The issuance of principles and ‘creative’ ideas are what usually come near the beginning of a farm bill process, not when it should have been concluded already.” Another noted that our statement of principles: “does not include any surprising policy shifts.” They are not wrong, and these astute observations suggest that these observers have been playing attention to what House Democrats have been saying all last year about the farm bill.

For months, House Democrats have been making the case, publicly as well as privately, for what we can and cannot accept in the next farm bill. We have issued public statements. Members have sent letters. We have used our opening remarks at Agriculture Committee hearings to reiterate our positions. Democratic Members have attended farm bill listening sessions across the country, speaking to their Republican counterparts but also the farmers, anti-hunger advocates, and ranchers in the audiences about what House Democrats will and won’t accept in a farm bill. We have had sit-downs with our colleagues across the aisle. We have spoken, again and again, in clear language about where our red lines are.

Why are these principles and “creative” ideas being published now? Because House Republicans don’t appear to have been listening. Despite clearly knowing where Democrats stand, they continue to push their objectional offsets. So maybe reading our views in black and white in the press will help Republicans understand that no means no.

Since the release of Democratic Farm Bill Principles, a new refrain has arisen and goes a little something like this: “Democrats are asking for things, but they aren’t offering to pay for things.” We don’t object to paying for things; but raiding programs supported by the conservation, renewable energy, and nutrition communities does not achieve a bipartisan farm bill but instead fractures the coalition which has been behind every successful farm bill. 

One only has to look at farm bills over the past 20 years to see the truth of this. For the 2002 Farm Bill, Speaker Dennis Hastert provided billions in additional resources to Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest to pay for improvements in the farm bill. When Speaker Nancy Pelosi had a majority, she similarly provided billions for Agriculture Chairman Collin Peterson for the 2008 Farm Bill. These funds helped the House pass bipartisan farm bills.

More recently, Republican speakers have been less interested in helping the Agriculture Committee. Neither Speakers John Boehner nor Paul Ryan were big supporters of farm bills before they became Speaker, and neither provided the 2014 or 2018 Farm Bills with new money, causing challenges for their Agriculture Committee chairs to pass bipartisan bills. 

House Republicans continue to propose a dangerous $30 billion cut to SNAP and hollowing out the historic climate investments achieved by Democrats in the Inflation Reduction Act. House Democrats are as likely to budge on those issues as House Republicans are to roll back their Trump-era tax giveaways to Wall Street to pay for the farm bill enhancements.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has committed to finding billions of dollars outside the Senate Agriculture Committee’s jurisdiction to help pass a bipartisan farm bill in the Senate. Given the Senate’s tight margins and filibuster rules, that funding will have to be acceptable to Senate Republicans. We believe House Republican Leadership should follow the Senate’s example and provide the Agriculture Committee with acceptable outside resources so we can move forward and get a farm bill done.

We reiterated our principles this week so there would be no misunderstanding where House Democrats stand on farm bill policy and what lines we will not cross. We ask House Republicans to believe that we mean what we say, and to have the courage to ask their own leadership to pony up and govern as is any majority’s responsibility.


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