As the end of 2023 approaches, American farmers and food producers are looking back on the year with frustration after Congress failed to pass a new Farm Bill this year.
The farm bill expired in September. The piece of legislation is passed by Congress every five years and funds critical programs like crop insurance for farmers. The bill also covers funding for programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.
It must be renewed every five years and is typically one of the most bipartisan pieces of legislation passed by Congress — but not this year.
"There does not appear to be much of an ability to legislate on something like this. The House has been an absolute mess in terms of being functional enough to do anything," said Jonathan Coppess, who teaches agriculture policy at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Coppess said Congress' inability to pass a new Farm Bill this year speaks to broader dysfunction in Washington.
"We're just stacking up the things that need to be done, and Congress is not finding ways to get them done," he said.
The $1.2 trillion price tag is part of the reason the passage of a new bill is being held up. Some Republicans also want SNAP benefits to come with stricter work requirements.
The chaos surrounding the House speaker earlier this year didn't help, either. Congress extended the 2018 Farm Bill for now but no new bill creates more uncertainty for America's 2 million farmers already facing a volatile marketplace.
It also means SNAP benefits won't be keeping up with rising food costs.
"We really hope congress passes a new bill in early 2024. It should be an immediate focus and big priority," said Hannah Tremblay with Farm Aid.
Tremblay said she wants Congress to use this as an opportunity to pass a new bill in 2024 that expands things like conservation programs.
"We want to see an ambitious bill that addresses these issues rather than status quo," Tremblay added.
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