Boozman releases Senate farm bill framework

Republican proposal similar to bill approved by House Ag Committee in May.

June 11, 2024

5 Min Read
John Boozman
Getty Images / Kevin Dietsch / Staff

Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman, R- Ark., released his framework for a Senate farm bill on Tuesday. His plan is similar to legislation passed by the House Agriculture Committee last month.

Boozman says lawmakers sought to draft a bill that reflects the needs of all stakeholders. He notes that the world has changed dramatically since the 2018 Farm Bill. According to him, farmers are facing challenges and economic uncertainty that are only projected to get worse in the coming years.

“Our framework released today meets that call by modernizing the farm safety net, facilitating the expansion of access to overseas markets, fostering breakthroughs in agricultural research and growing the rural communities our farmers, ranchers and foresters call home – all while making a historic investment in conservation and protecting nutrition programs that help Americans in need,” Boozman says. “Following on the House Committee on Agriculture’s bipartisan passage of a farmer-focused farm bill, we are putting forth a framework that exhibits a shared common ground with our Democrat counterparts on several key priorities and offers a path forward in the places where we differ.”

Those places of differing priorities continue to include nutrition. Boozman proposes a “cost neutral” approach to the Thrifty Food Plan similar to the House farm bill.

The Thrifty Food Plan includes a formula that determines the amount of assistance Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs recipients receive. Currently, that plan is reviewed every five years so it can be adjusted for changing nutrition science, food prices and other factors. Boozman’s plan would prohibit any adjustments that stray from current costs.

The Congressional Budget Office’s farm bill budget anticipates increases in nutrition spending. Capping Thrifty Food Plan funding at current levels allows Republicans to increase funding for other parts of the farm bill without exceeding the CBO budget.

Republicans contend the change does not harm SNAP since current nutrition funding will decrease. Democrats counter it is actually a $27 billion cut in nutrition assistance.

“By copying the approach taken by House Agriculture Republicans, the Senate Agriculture Republican minority has chosen to ignore Democratic warnings by putting forth policies, particularly on nutrition, that Democrats cannot and will not accept,” House Ag Committee Ranking Member David Scott, D- Ga., said shortly after Boozman’s plan was announced. “The worst-kept secret in the agriculture community is that a farm bill with the Republican proposal on the Thrifty Food Plan will never become law.”

Unsurprisingly, Republican House Ag Committee Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson has a different take. He says the Senate framework includes thought proposals that must be addressed.

“Their framework elevates the urgent needs voiced by diverse stakeholders across the country, and articulates common-sense solutions in response, an approach the House Committee on Agriculture took in developing and advancing the bipartisan Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024,” Thompson said. “House Republicans are eager to build on this momentum and enact a comprehensive farm bill that meets the needs across the agricultural value chain."

Highlights of the Senate bill

The Senate farm bill proposal includes an average 15% reference price increase for all covered commodities. It doubles funding for trade programs and includes additional funding for small business development, rural broadband and rural infrastructure programs.

In an effort to improve crop insurance affordability, the farm bill framework includes enhanced premium support for beginning farmers and ranchers for 10 years. Premium support for the supplemental coverage option is set at 80% with a coverage level of 90%.

Premium support for the 80% coverage level would increase to 77%. The 85% coverage level would go up to 68%.

The bill also doubles agriculture research funding and includes programs to increase access to rural healthcare and childcare.

Other areas of disagreement

Boozman’s framework would shift funds from the Inflation Reduction Act into the farm bill’s conservation title. Republicans have long contended this will allow them to not only increase farm bill conservation spending, but also make it a permanent part of the farm bill. Democrats have been against this because it means a sizable percentage of IRA funding won’t necessarily be used to offset greenhouse gas emissions as originally intended.

The issue has symbolic significance for Democrats since the Inflation Reduction Act is considered one of President Biden’s key legislative wins. Transferring those funds to the farm bill limits the president’s ability to enact many of his climate priorities.

The Senate farm bill framework also takes away the Secretary of Agriculture’s authority to use Commodity Credit Corporation funds for emergency purposes. Instead, Congress would have to authorize all disaster relief spending.

The CCC change frees up money in the farm bill budget for other purposes, though party leaders disagree on the exact amount. So far Senate Republicans have not stated how much they believe those savings will be.

What happens next?

At this point, the fate of Boozman’s proposal remains murky at best. Last month, four Democrats voted with Republicans to approve Thompson’s House proposal. However, the outcome was never really in doubt since Republicans hold the majority there.

Things are different in the Senate, where Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow controls the Ag Committee thanks to her party’s slim majority. She is expected to release her own farm bill framework in the coming days.

While having the majority would seem to give her an advantage, nothing is certain in an election year. Boozman remains optimistic his proposal will get support.

“I have been proud to partner with Chairwoman Stabenow on priority issues and shepherd significant reforms into law, particularly the accomplishments focused on climate and nutrition,” he says. “These accomplishments would not have been possible without a commitment to working together as good faith partners. Senate Republicans have every intention of continuing farm bill negotiations in the same manner and remain committed to advancing a bipartisan farm bill that meets the needs of farmers, ranchers, foresters, rural communities and consumers nationwide.”

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