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Duarte: New Farm Bill uncertain
John Duarte
Rep. John Duarte (R-Hughson), who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, said he would rather wait until after the 2024 General Election than vote on a bill that includes “a lot of Green New Deal programs" (Photo contributed).

Rep. John Duarte (R-Hughson), who serves on the House Agriculture Committee, doesn’t foresee Congress passing a new farm bill this year, instead relying on the bill that was passed in 2018.

“I’d love to see a farm bill get done this year,” said Duarte. “Our (ag) committee chairman, G.T. Thompson (R-Penn.) is very committed to getting a farm bill done this year. But if the structure of doing a farm bill this year means we have to pass it on suspension because we can’t unite the Republicans around a negotiating start position; and then we have to send it over to a Democratic Senate and have it get softened up some more … then I’m going to be very reticent to jump on board and say there’s an imperative to do a farm bill this year. We’re under a pretty good farm bill right now.”

The farm bill is a multiyear law that governs a variety of agricultural and food programs, and provides an opportunity for policymakers to address a broad range of ag and food issues roughly every five years. In November, Congress enacted and President Biden signed into a law a one-year extension of the current farm bill — the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 — to continue authorizations until the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30) and the end of the crop year (Dec. 31).

The timing and consequences of the farm bill expiring vary by program across the full scope of the act.

Programs with mandatory funding provided by the farm bill for provisions that expire at the end of the fiscal year may cease to operate, while some programs, such as crop insurance, are permanently authorized, do not expire, and would not be affected by the bill’s expiration.

The 2018 farm bill was crafted when former President Trump was in the White House, with Democrats controlling the House and Republicans the Senate.

“If we have to completely erode the 2018 farm bill by baking in a lot of Green New Deal programs to get a bill done, then I think we want to wait until after the election to see if that’s really what the American people want,” said Duarte. “Or,  are they going to hand (Republicans) more control and we can do something more like we did in 2018.”

Any farm bill done this year likely would have to go through a suspension vote, meaning a two-thirds majority of the entire Congress would need to approve it.

Historically, the farm bill is a piece of bipartisan legislation that governs not only American farms, but nutrition standards, rural economic development, infrastructure, wildfire mitigation and welfare programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and WIC (Women, Infants, Children).