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Partisan reconciliation process could impact next farm bill

iStock Partisan Capitol punching gloves iStock1094058960.jpg
Historic bipartisan process in the Senate and House agriculture committees again abandoned.

Democratic leaders in the House and Senate continue to finalize their $3.5 trillion package with many of their top priorities. But as we’ve seen for agriculture, input from both sides of the aisle has not made known agriculture’s wish list. Although we may be able to breathe a sigh of relief that changes in stepped-up basis did not make it into the House version as of now, we still don’t know the “damage” or “help” for farmers as this train keeps steam rolling ahead.

But what we do know is that the historic bipartisan cooperation in the ag committees, often the envy of other committees, is nowhere to be found for the second time this year. As I mentioned candidly in my blog earlier this week on the bad lesson in federal spending calling out the shady process of the attempts to divert trillions in new spending, bipartisan efforts were nowhere to be found.

In recent administrations, reconciliation was used to advance the Affordable Care Act under the Obama administration and the tax cuts during the Trump administration. But bipartisan efforts were still allowed.  

As shared during a hearing this week by ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Sen. John Boozman, R-Ark., says in the last 40 years, the committee has received budget reconciliation instructions 15 times. Earlier this year shortly after coming into office, consideration of the agriculture provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act in 2021 was the first time in more than 40 years that this bipartisan committee tradition was not upheld.

Between 1980 and this year, five committee chairs from both parties provided the leadership to ensure that there was some level of bipartisan input into the reconciliation process, whether that was a committee hearing, an open markup of the legislation, the bipartisan service of agriculture committee members on a conference committee, or legislation that was passed with the bipartisan votes of senators from both parties.

In the Senate, Democrats did not convene a conference committee to consider any changes and the final bill passed Congress by a party-line vote during the reconciliation bill earlier this year in the American Rescue Plan.

And although the House Agriculture Committee at least held a markup, it proved this time around once again a failure to adopt even one amendment introduced by the minority. The House Agriculture Committee approved an incomplete bill that included no conservation program spending. The estimated $28 billion in new conservation spending may not be introduced until it comes to the full House floor for a vote.

“It’s Groundhog Day here at the House Agriculture Committee,” shared House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., following the ag committee vote Monday morning. “Despite touting his commitment to bipartisanship, Chairman [David] Scott sadly fell in line with Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi yet again during the second hyper-partisan reconciliation process this year. I’m greatly disappointed to see my colleagues across the aisle so brazenly disrespect the long bipartisan history of this great committee by supporting this socialist spending spree.”

As shared during the House Agriculture Committee markup, leading up to the 2018 Farm Bill, the then Republican leadership held more than 100 public events and hearings to debate and sort out potential policy proposals.

Farmers deserve to have policy debated. It’s important to have a discussion before it becomes law.

Boozman says the bill advanced out of the House Agriculture Committee did include something called the Civilian Climate Corps, which he thinks is better described as the climate police. House ag Republicans all supported an amendment from Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., to strike funding for the Civilian Climate Corps towards improvement to the Livestock Forage Program. But of course the amendment was shot down.

“We have no information on what the climate police may be, what its purpose is, how it will work, why it is needed, or any other answers to the most fundamental questions American taxpayers expect this body to know and deliberate on before spending trillions of dollars,” Boozman says, also adding the Democrats are directing the climate police to operate on federal forests and private land.

“That’s the last thing farmers and ranchers need,” Boozman continues.

And Boozman says he’s most concerned about the impact this partisan process will have on consideration of the next farm bill quickly approaching with work likely to begin in 2022 ahead of the 2023 expiration.

“Despite its high final vote tallies, passing the 2018 Farm Bill was no simple task. It took moderation on both sides and months of thoughtful deliberation to craft legislation that demonstrated wins for all,” Boozman says. “By choosing this approach, Democrats are shattering the farm bill process and putting our farmers’ futures in jeopardy.”

We already knew the House especially has a dwindling number of representatives who truly understand agriculture. Now, those more likely ag-educated members on the ag committees are being silenced in major policy reforms.

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