Budget agreement likely further delays farm bill

Nothing is expected to happen with new farm bill legislation until funding issues are resolved.

Joshua Baethge, Policy editor

January 17, 2024

3 Min Read
U.S. capitol building with flag

News that Congress may be on the verge of passing a third budget extension will likely further delay progress on a new farm bill. While lawmakers aren’t admitting it publicly, multiple sources close to the situation say there is a growing sense that new farm bill legislation is still a long way off.

If you feel like you’ve heard this story before, that’s probably because you have. The 2018 Farm Bill officially expired on Sept. 30. At the time Congress was hammering out a last-minute continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown. That budget compromise funded government agencies through mid-November.

In response to the budget deal they opposed, hard-right Republicans ousted House Speaker Kevin McCarthy shortly afterward. When the dust settled nearly a month later, Louisiana Republican Mike Johnson had been elected as the new Speaker. At the time, he said he planned to bring farm bill legislation to the floor by December.

A few weeks later, facing the funding extension deadline, Johnson brokered a second compromise with Democrats to keep government agencies running into 2024. As part of the deal, the 2018 Farm Bill was brought back to life and extended to Sept. 30, 2024.

Congress took no additional action on the farm bill before leaving for their holiday break.

“Right now, Congress can’t seem to get anything done unless they are about to fall off a cliff,” a source close to the farm bill negotiations said this week. “While passing an extension was imperative, it has also taken some of the immediate pressure off of them.”

The continuing resolution agreed to in November included two budget deadlines. Funding for four appropriations packages, including agriculture, is set to expire Jan. 19. The remaining appropriations packages remain funded through Feb. 2.

Last week, leaders in the House and Senate agreed to a topline budget number that sets overall defense and non-defense spending for the fiscal year. This is typically the first step toward any budget agreement.

This week, Congressional leaders agreed to a third continuing resolution that would move the appropriations deadlines to March. Notably, the bill does not include additional WIC program funding White House officials had hoped to add.

The compromise bill is expected to pass the Senate. Its fate in the House remains less clear. Already, some on the right are speaking out against it.

Last week, 13 Republicans voted down an unrelated GOP-supported bill in protest of Johnson’s $1.6 trillion top-line budget figure. Many of them say they will not support any budget agreement that doesn’t include some of their key priorities like spending cuts and more border security measures.

Any bill that assuages the hard-right would likely fail in the Democrat-controlled Senate. That means Johnson will need Democrat support to get the compromise through. Of course, everyone still remembers what happened to McCarthy the last time he did the same thing.

House Ag Committee Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson recently indicated he hopes to introduce new farm bill legislation by March. If Congress is still considering appropriations then, all bets are off.

“Anything can happen, but I just don’t see the farm bill getting much attention until we get budget deal,” another anonymous insider said this week.

On the bright side, most analysts say there is next to no chance that lawmakers will allow the farm bill to expire during an election year. If there is no progress toward a new bill by summer, the chances of another extension will likely grow. That’s another one you’ve probably heard before, too.

About the Author(s)

Joshua Baethge

Policy editor, Farm Progress

Joshua Baethge covers a wide range of government issues affecting agriculture. Before joining Farm Progress, he spent 10 years as a news and feature reporter in Texas. During that time, he covered multiple state and local government entities, while also writing about real estate, nightlife, culture and whatever else was the news of the day.

Baethge earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of North Texas. In his free time, he enjoys going to concerts, discovering new restaurants, finding excuses to be outside and traveling as much as possible. He is based in the Dallas area where he lives with his wife and two kids.

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