P&C the March 2024 issue

Farm Bill Idles

Congress will need to overcome election-year paralysis to finally vote on the five-year, $1.5T reauthorization.
By Blaire Bartlett Posted on March 1, 2024

While the Federal Crop Insurance Program (FCIP) is permanently authorized, the farm bill can change how the program is administered, what is covered, the amount of its premium subsidies, and the level of broker compensation. Through the FCIP, farmers can purchase insurance coverage against financial losses caused by a variety of risks, including certain adverse growing and market conditions. The federal government subsidizes the premiums that farmers pay for these insurance policies to encourage participation in the program. Farmers can choose among many types of policies and policy options to customize the coverage to their specific needs and cannot be refused a policy. Private companies sell and service the policies, which are subsidized, regulated and reinsured by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Losses are shared by farmers, private companies and the government.

The farm bill is already on borrowed time. In November 2023, Congress provided some breathing room by agreeing to a one-year extension of the 2018 farm bill (officially called the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018) through Sept. 30, 2024.

Having originally hoped to move the farm bill before the end of 2023, House Agriculture Committee chairman Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.) is now eyeing spring passage through the lower-chamber panel.

The slow advancement through committee of the Senate version of the farm bill is leaving some senators impatient. Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has said “it’s time to get serious” if the Senate is to “get a farm bill done by spring.” Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) agrees, warning, “If [the farm bill] is not done by the presidential convention[s],” which take place in July and August, “it won’t be done this year, and we’ll have a one-year extension,” punting the five-year reauthorization into 2025.

Following potential passage in each chamber, the bills would still have to be merged in conference, with the compromise legislation going back for House and Senate votes. Significant hurdles remain, including friction among members of Congress over funding for nutrition programs in the $1.5 trillion bill (Stabenow has made it clear that she will hold firm against any cuts to nutrition programs); the challenge of advancing big legislation in an election year; freeing up floor time by resolving the continuing battle over fiscal year 2024 funding; and securing bipartisan agreement on the massive bill.

Blaire Bartlett Vice President, Government and Political Affairs, The Council Read More

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