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Fate of 2023 Farm Bill Hangs in the Balance of November’s Elections

(Chuck Muth) – The Farm Bill is reconsidered and reauthorized every five years.  It’s the largest food-related piece of legislation considered by Congress.  And it’s up again next year.  But partisan disputes and sniping have already begun.

And it’s likely to get worse.

If Democrats retain control of the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives, the 2023 version of the Farm Bill is likely to dramatically tie the hands of farmers and ranchers in the name of climate change.

But our national security is tied to the ability of farmers and ranchers to produce the food we eat. As President Donald Trump said, “We want our products made, grown and raised right here in the USA.”

If, as expected, Republicans take over either or both the House and Senate in November, they’ll work to unleash the full potential of American agriculture. Republicans must begin making the case now that the Farm Bill must focus on steps to improve food security, not Democrat pet projects.

One of the most contentious fights brewing is over Democrat desires to infuse “climate” provisions in the new legislation. This is on top of the nearly $40 billion in reconciliation funding earmarked for agricultural climate projects the Democrats just pushed through the Senate on a party-line vote.

The Farm Bill is a textbook example of government command-and-control, touching nearly every aspect of farmers’ lives and livelihoods.  And if Democrats control this process, that command-and-control is virtually guaranteed to become out-of-control.

Global warming activists hope to use the Farm Bill to bestow upon the USDA (Department of Agriculture) new bureaucratic powers to fight “climate change.”

“Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee are eager to bolster money for climate and disaster relief in farm bill talks next year,” reported Meredith Lee in Politico last December.  “Strengthening the bill’s climate provisions would cement the Agriculture Department as a central player in government efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions for years to come.”

USDA Undersecretary Robert Bonnie seconded that emotion, declaring that inserting climate change mitigation measures in the Farm Bill is “really important” to the Biden administration.

But Patrick Creamer, communications director for Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR), objects.

“The world is currently experiencing a global food crisis,” he noted in an interview. “Farmers are struggling to keep up with record-high input costs such as fertilizer and diesel fuel.  Spending billions on experimental pilot programs and duplicating private market incentives to boost organic and urban agriculture will not get us out of this mess.”

It bears repeating, food security is national security. American farmers and ranchers are facing incredible financial stresses while feeding our country during a time of heightened global conflict.

Is piling on unnecessary regulations and green mandates that will make food more expensive and drive some farmers out of businesses really the smartest move? Do we want to rely on foreign adversaries like China or Russia for our basic food supplies?

The answer seems obvious, but maybe not to bureaucrats in Washington, DC. Farm Bill funding must support farmers, not climate activists. Otherwise, we’ll be begging Russia for wheat, China for rice, and India for sugar.

Sounds like a common-sense idea.  But when has common sense ever dictated policy decisions in Washington, DC – especially for a Farm Bill?

However, hope springs eternal.  As journalist Saul Elbein noted in a column back in May, “Radical reform is unlikely in any farm bill, and this coming bill – likely presided over by a Republican Congress – least of all.”

Let’s hope he’s right.

Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a non-partisan grassroots advocacy organization, and former executive director of the American Conservative Union