The House Republicans’ Farm Bill Blueprint Has Arrived

For a person who covers federal farm and food policy and budgets, there is nothing more important than the farm bill. Every five years (more or less), Congress works to re-authorize the federal baseline budget and approach to nutrition programs, crop insurance, private lands conservation, farm and food research, rural development programs, and more.

The negotiated deal more or less governs USDA’s budget for the time being, although Congress can, and regularly does, add annual supplemental sums to deal with particular situations. We saw this in recent years, for example, when then-President Trump added payments to farmers for “trade assistance” due to China decreasing purchases of U.S. corn, soybeans, and more when Trump imposed tariffs. Or when Congress chose to add Covid-19 monthly bonuses to people for nutrition assistance through SNAP (also known as “food stamps”) and cost-free school meals.

The current farm bill expires next year, and the House and Senate Agriculture Committees have already started their “hearings and negotiations.”

A huge factor in the farm bill debate is going to be the outcome of the 2022 midterm elections. The House and Senate leadership could change from Democratic to Republican. With that, Republican priorities could come more to the forefront.

If that happens, especially in the House of Representatives, more and more Republicans are likely to turn to the Republican Study Committee (RSC) for farm bill insight.

And that could really change things. The RSC proposes to “sever public nutrition programs from the farm bill, eradicate major farm supports and slash federal support of crop insurance,” based on reporting from Successful Farming. In addition, the RSC package would convert “food stamps into a discretionary block grant with states sharing the cost of food assistance,” as well as endorsing more strict work requirements for SNAP recipients.

The RSC proposal would also cut farm crop insurance and conservation programs. Even with these cuts, the RSC claims to be “undeniably pro-farmer,” presenting their “suite of pro-growth tax reforms and deregulatory measures” as replacements for current farm programs.

How this all shakes out will be critical. Will the Democrats retain the Senate and lose the House? Will the Republicans sweep the election altogether? Will the Senate keep its current mixture of farm, nutrition, conservation, and rural development programs pretty much as it stands today?

We shall see, Keep It Rural readers. And we’ll be here to report on the process as it unfolds during the next 12-18 months.

Rural Reading List

From the Daily Yonder and other publications, we’ve got some solid rural news. Check out the following stories:

‘Land Rich, Cash Poor’ – How Black Americans Lost Some of the Most Desirable Land in the U.S.

This important Daily Yonder story documents more than a century of Black land loss.

Fertilizer Industry and Farmer Advocates at Odds About Solutions to Fertilizer Crisis 

Another Yonder story, this one highlighting the mess/rising prices of farm fertilizer.

‘Building a Lot of Relationships’: Davids Campaigns for Rural Votes in Redrawn District

This Wichita Eagle story focuses on Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS) and her campaign to win over rural voters in her newly redrawn district.

In Rural Areas With Few Healthcare Options, Squeeze on Reproductive Care Easy to Miss

This look at rural reproductive care comes to us from the Montgomery (AL) Advertiser.

One More Thing: Supreme Court Rulings (Again)

Supreme Court rulings have lived large in Keep It Rural newsletters the past few weeks. From eliminating legal abortion rights to curtailing federal authority to regulate pollution, the contemporary Supreme Court has made things happen for its Republican majority.

In this thoughtful Daily Yonder commentary, Skylar Baker-Jordan explores yet another decision from our nation’s highest court, this one about forced Christianity and the imperative to protect LGBTQ+ rights in rural schools:

“’Your absence will be conspicuous and noted,’ warned a well-meaning teacher. I believe her intentions were to spare me the pain of further ostracization and ridicule, but the message I took was more sinister: conform, or else.

Whether the school meant to do this or not, I was singled out and made to feel uncomfortable and unwelcome while everyone around me prayed. That feeling of being pointedly informed I do not belong has never left me and is a big reason why I have been back to my hometown exactly once in 15 years – and that was just to drive through.”

Conform. Or else. That is just a dreadful reality for too many people in rural schools, whether 15 years ago or today.

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