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Montana Ag Network: Congressional delegates weigh in on Farm Bill proposal

"I think that if we continue to talk positively about this bill...we have a better chance of getting it over the finish line.”
Farm Bill OCH
Posted at 8:00 AM, May 11, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-11 10:00:07-04

WASHINGTON D.C. — In late 2023, Congress put the Farm Bill on a back burner to navigate through the Appropriations process.

"It protects the interests of small farmers, it protects crucial climate funding to help farmers from things like natural disasters, and it provides robust nutrition assistance that directly helps millions of kids across the country.” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a recent Scripps News report.

The Farm Bill is a large piece of legislation that's home to 85% of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs formerly known as Food Stamps. A major cause of division at party lines.

"$1.2 trillion going to social programs. Therein lies the problem.” Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Montana) told MTN.

Recently, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) released a new proposal of the upcoming Farm Bill. As Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Montana's lone Democrat in Congress, Sen. Jon Tester says it is enough to get the bill passed.

“You’re going to end up with a proposal that not everyone will be 100% on board with 100% of the stuff." Tester said.

The new proposal highlights conservation, an approximate 5% increase to reference prices, and the expansion of crop insurance coverage.

"My concern is which is most of the agriculture community," Rosendale said. "Is that 85% of the Farm Bill still continues to be dedicated toward social programs instead of the agriculture community.”

Rep. Rosendale (R-Montana) has been a loud voice in the House of Representatives to knock down unnecessary government spending. He says most of Congress agrees on the agriculture portion of the legislation — which creates an increase in the base price for commodity markets. Sen. Tester says, the increase is a positive, but still isn't the rate he would like to see.

"That’s an argument we can have on the Senate floor if it isn’t already in the bill and have an argument about, let’s have that index with the growth in the economy, and if we’re able to do that, that’s one less trip wire we have to get over the top of," explained Tester.

When it comes to those in production agriculture and others who need food assistance, getting a bill to the chamber floor can allow for additional amendments to be created.

"Let's just vote and move this out of committee and get it to the floor. For some reason, we have a hard time doing that. Because of that, both folks in production agriculture and folks that need a little food security suffer."

Rosendale added beef labeling should and can be introduced in the next draft of the Farm Bill. The USA Beef Act, would provide the necessary origin labeling to grocery store beef products.

"I truly believe, we should be focused on when folks go to the supermarket, and they go to pick up some beef. They should be able to see if it was truly born, raised and slaughtered here in the United States.”

Rosendale's bipartisan legislation on beef labeling is not included in Sen. Stabenow's proposal, Sen. Tester's Meat Packing Special Investigator Act has a seat at the table. Tester's legislation would enhance competition in the marketplace while creating more enforcement of the Packers and Stockyards Act.

"I'm tickled pink Chairman Stabenow including my Special Meat Investigator Act in her proposal." Tester said. "That’s also less reliance on the Farm Bill. It saves taxpayer dollars too because anytime you have competition, you have more of the true actual price, of the cost of production being paid in the marketplace. There isn't a farmer and rancher alive out there that don’t want to see their check coming from the marketplace, not from the federal government.”

With Congress on its heals of conflict over the future of the Farm Bill, Rosendale says puts more pressure on conservative voters in the 2024 election year.

"I don’t know how in the world, to expect the republicans in the majority to make these difficult decisions in an election year in 2024. That’s why I say, if you want to see changes, you must put people in offices that are willing to make changes.”

Tester added, "I think that if we continue to talk positively about this bill and keep giving positive vibes to the leadership on the agriculture committee, we have a better chance of getting it over the finish line.”

The 2018 Farm Bill in place is set to expire on September 30th of this year.