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House Ag Dems fight farm bill cuts

Presented by Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health: Delivered every Monday by 10 a.m., Weekly Agriculture examines the latest news in agriculture and food politics and policy.
Oct 23, 2023 View in browser

By Garrett Downs and Meredith Lee Hill

Presented by


— FIRST IN MA: Every Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee signed a letter demanding Chair G.T. Thompson (R-Pa.) and ranking member David Scott (D-Ga.) reject cuts to the Inflation Reduction Act via the Farm Bill.

— The letter follows a closed-door meeting where Scott laid out a list of previously unreported proposed Republican farm bill clawbacks worth $50 billion, which your hosts scooped last week.  

— House Ag member Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.) is back in the race for speaker of the House after Rep. Jim Jordan’s (R-Ohio) bid petered out.

HAPPY MONDAY, Oct. 23. We’re your hosts, Garrett Downs and Meredith Lee Hill. Send tips to [email protected] and [email protected], and follow us at @Morning_Ag.


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Driving the day

Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine). | Robert F. Bukaty/AP Photo

FIRST IN MA — DEMS PUSH BACK: Every Democratic member of the House Ag Committee urged Thompson and Scott against IRA cuts in the farm bill, according to a new letter shared exclusively with MA.

The letter comes after Republicans floated a list of $50 billion in farm bill clawbacks, including a large chunk from the IRA. (More on that below.)

Republicans are eyeing possible plans to use some of the IRA money to make up budget shortfalls in other sections of the farm bill, like the commodity support title.

What they’re saying: In the letter led by Reps. Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) and Nikki Budzinski (D-Ill.), the lawmakers write that the IRA money was “intended to go towards climate smart conservation, and it would ultimately be a disservice to American farmers should these funds go elsewhere.”

They contend the money should be kept where it is because demand for the Conservation Stewardship Program and the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, two programs boosted by the IRA, far exceeds the available funding.

The group also pushes back on a GOP talking point that the IRA will not benefit all farmers. The lawmakers said “[c]onservation resources are available to and benefit all farmers,” and nearly half of all CSP and EQIP payments since 2020 have gone to climate-smart agriculture, “meaning the practices that the IRA supports are in demand across the country.”

They go on to tout that the IRA is supported by “more than 1,700 farm groups, companies, environmental advocates, leading economists, local elected officials and municipalities, and trade associations.”

“Three out of four CSP applicants are turned away due to inadequate funding; moving the IRA funds from conservation would be denying farmers the support they need and want,” they warned.

In an interview with Meredith, Budzinski and Pingree outlined their party’s push to defend their marquee climate bill.

Budzinski said the letter confirms that Democrats are a “united front” to protect “100 percent” of the IRA dollars in the conservation title.

Pingree said she spoke to Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who agrees that none of the IRA money should be moved. She said any decision to move IRA money would be an “all caucus decision,” not just Democrats on the Ag Committee.

Both Pingree and Budzinski argued the IRA conservation dollars benefit commodity crop farmers, despite some GOP arguments that the money should be repurposed for more crop safety net programs.


Agriculture Committee ranking member David Scott (D-Ga.). | Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via AP

ICYMI: DEM MEETING SCOOP: The aforementioned $50 billion GOP list of potential clawbacks was presented to Democrats by ranking member David Scott at a previously unreported meeting two weeks ago, and it raised new concerns about his ability to negotiate a farm bill with Republicans, your hosts scooped for Pro subscribers on Friday.

How it went down: Lawmakers expressed alarm with Scott’s negotiating strategy after he and his staff laid out the previously unreported list in which Republicans identified $50 billion in potential funding cuts or clawbacks, according to three people familiar with the talks who were granted anonymity to discuss private conversations.

The GOP list includes possible spending cuts or reinvestments from a swath of key conservation and nutrition programs prized by Democrats to offset Republican and Democratic priorities elsewhere in the farm bill given limited new funds this year, the people said.

“People were livid,” said one Democratic aide, who was granted anonymity to discuss private conversations.

Scott didn’t tell panel members where the $50 billion would come from before the meeting, only that the committee had found extra money to be used for bipartisan priorities, according to two of the people. So Democratic members were flummoxed when Scott’s staff presented the list of climate and nutrition programs that would be hit. Members were also confused as to whether Scott had already agreed to the cuts.

A fourth person familiar with the list said it contained spending offsets Republicans are suggesting as a way to overcome major funding challenges and confirmed Scott had not agreed to anything. Democrats held a second meeting Thursday, after members expressed concerns.

Ben Goldey, a spokesperson for House Agriculture Committee Republicans, denied the existence of a full-fledged proposal, but acknowledged Democrats were presented with a list of potential cuts.

Scott’s office did not respond to a request for comment from POLITICO. But a Scott spokesperson told The Hagstrom Report: “Reports that ranking member David Scott has agreed to any Republican proposals to cut conservation or nutrition programs are erroneous and misinformed.” Notably, POLITICO reported that Scott had not agreed to any of the proposals.

The clawback details: The list is the first indication of where House Republicans are looking to repurpose funds in the farm bill.

Under the Republican suggestions, programs that would see funding clawbacks include: $15 billion in unspent funds from Democrats’ prized IRA climate-agriculture programs, limits on future updates to the Thrifty Food Plan and the Conservation Reserve Program.

The GOP list also included potential clawbacks to the Commodity Credit Corporation, USDA’s internal bank that the Agriculture secretary has broad discretion over. The CCC has come under intense scrutiny from both sides of the aisle after it was used to bail out farmers injured by former President Donald Trump’s trade war, and to stand up the Biden administration’s flagship Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities program.

“Obviously, we need to find some pay-fors,” Thompson said last Thursday when asked by Garrett about the list. “Because there is real need for safety net, for research, for expanded trade tools.”


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Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.). | Francis Chung/POLITICO

HE’S BACK: House Ag member Rep. Austin Scott is back in the race for speaker after Jordan’s bid fizzled.

Scott is the vice chair of the Agriculture Committee and the chair of the subcommittee that covers commodities, risk management and credit. He has served in the House since 2011.

Scott ran unsuccessfully against Jordan two weeks ago to become the GOP’s speaker designee, but pulled 81 votes in a surprise show of force against Jordan — a far better-known member. His bid was also popular among ag interests, with hopes that a Scott speakership would prioritize the farm bill that expired on Sept. 30.

As Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-Calif.) put it, Scott’s initial bid was “probably coming from a concern for the farm bill.”

Speaker roulette: Scott has a lot of competition as he tries to become the party’s candidate for speaker. Eight other Republicans have also jumped into the race, including heavy hitters like Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R-Minn.) and House Republican Conference Vice Chair Rep. Mike Johnson (R-La.).

The designee will ultimately be chosen by secret ballot by the GOP caucus as a whole.

But it’s unclear whether any of the candidates will be able to secure the 217 votes on the House floor needed to secure the gavel, which eluded both Jordan and Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) in the past several weeks.

Row Crops

— Senate Ag ranking member John Boozman is publicly eyeing a farm bill extension, Agri-Pulse reports.

— A new speaker may not clear hurdles for agriculture bills, Roll Call reports.

— Farmers of color in Washington caught a pandemic boom, but are now fearing a bust, The Seattle Times reports.

THAT’S ALL FOR MA! Drop us a line: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], [email protected] and [email protected].


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House Ag Dems fight farm bill cuts


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