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Ag bills again get caught in partisanship

iStock Partisan Capitol punching gloves iStock1094058960.jpg
House Republicans and Democrats spar over how best to manage rising inflation and higher food costs.

In action on Thursday, the full House approved the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act, which includes many previously approved bills with widespread support but also some that Republicans say will do little to address rising food prices. Republicans introduced their own bill that hopes to reverse regulatory burdens and reduce farm inputs.

“The passage of the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act is a true testament to the continued work ethic and bipartisanship that our committee has championed, and a welcome relief for America’s farmers, ranchers and consumers,” says House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Scott, D-Ga., after passage of the bill.

However, in remarks on the House floor ahead of the vote, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., says the bill “does nothing to lower food and fuel costs” and criticized House Democrats for neglecting to take serious action to incentive American production and the Lower Food and Fuel Costs Act will compound the dire situation for farmers.

Thompson went on to criticize the inclusion of poison pill bills – such as the one establishing the special meat inspector, with those with widespread bipartisan support. The North American Meat Institute says the provisions to establish the meat inspector will cost taxpayers $9 million to create another layer of government bureaucracy, while the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association warns it could actually take valuable resources away from other needed actions at the Ag Marketing Service including establishing a cattle contract library and meat grading and market data reporting.

Many of the provisions included in the bill were advanced unanimously out of the House Agriculture Committee several weeks ago. However, the provisions establishing the special meat investigator were widely debated that day.

Thompson challenges that if Democrats were serious about trying to advance legislation that advances shared goals, they “would not have paired such an egregious example of legislative overreach with several other bipartisan, thoughtful bills.”

He adds, “If this were a serious exercise, my Democrat colleagues would not have added two unvetted Democrat amendments that are more about political point-scoring than genuine, near-term policy solutions. If this were a serious exercise, my Democrat colleagues would have worked with Republicans to form concrete, immediate policy solutions with a chance of consideration in the Senate,” Thompson says on the floor.

House Republicans did their own political posturing on Wednesday afternoon. In a press conference ahead of the vote, Republicans outlined their call for regulatory rollbacks and called for actions from the Biden administration to stop taking actions that actually limit U.S. agricultural productivity and create uncertainty for farmers.

In a letter to the President, nearly 100 House Republicans state, the Biden administration has neglected to take serious action to increase American production. “In fact, you have proposed massive new tax liabilities for farmers, and your regulatory agenda would further limit American farmers’ ability to meet global food demand.”

During the press conference, Thompson says, “American agriculture, when given the right tools and regulatory certainty, can serve a vital role in alleviating global food instability and mitigating costs for consumers.”

Thompson, with 20 original co-sponsors, introduced H.R. 8069, the Reducing Farm Input Costs and Barriers to Domestic Production Act, to reverse many of the regulatory burdens spearheaded by this administration.

Specifically, the bill provides relief from EPA’s unprecedented actions related to crop protection tools, offers clarity related to Waters of the U.S. regulations, rescinds the Security and Exchange Commission’s proposed rule on climate-related disclosures, reinstates the 2020 National Environmental Policy Act streamlining and requires an economic analysis on the costs and benefits of Packers and Stockyards updates planned by USDA this year.

Thompson notes although the Lower Food and Fuels Costs Act does include some constructive bills supported by Republicans, “the needless layers of additional bureaucracy laced throughout it only exacerbate inflation and further challenges farm families, not to mention the $700 million price tag determined” by the Congressional Budget Office.

“It does nothing to provide regulatory certainty. It does nothing to lower skyrocketing input costs,” Thompson continues.

However, Scott says otherwise, “It is unfortunate that some of our Republican colleagues have chosen to politicize this moment and tarnish our bipartisan reputation rather than supporting a legislative package that delivers solutions from both Democrats and Republicans. The American people deserve better than that. We should not be playing politics with people’s pocketbooks. I urge my friends in the Senate to act swiftly on this legislation,” Scott says.

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