D.C. Drama Delays Farm Bill

by Garrett Hawkins, President of Missouri Farm Bureau


The afternoon of September 30, 2023, came and went with its fair share of drama, including narrowly avoiding a government shutdown and the subsequent ousting of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. One significant item largely flew under the radar, which was the expiration of the 2018 Farm Bill. Despite not gaining as much media attention as a continuing resolution or the House Speaker’s removal, the expiration of the farm bill is a big deal in farm country.

Earlier today, the House of Representatives elected Mike Johnson (R-LA) to be Speaker, so legislative business can now resume. The farm bill adds to a long list of items on Speaker Johnson’s “to-do” list as the year draws to a close.

Congress must agree to a new farm bill or pass an extension prior to January 1, 2024, in order to avoid a lapse in farm programs. First on the chopping block are dairy programs, known to many as the “dairy cliff.” If Congress cannot come to an agreement before the calendar turns to 2024, the dairy program will revert to permanent law. This requires USDA to purchase dairy products in quantities sufficient to raise demand. Under permanent law, the mandated purchase price for milk would be $50.70 per hundredweight based on May 2023 data, which is more than 2.5 times (or 162% higher than) the current market price of milk ($19.30/cwt), according to the Congressional Research Service. Other crops like corn, soybeans, cotton and rice would not see impacts until later in 2024.

While we don’t believe Congress will allow any farm bill programs to lapse, and is likely to extend the current farm bill, Missouri Farm Bureau (MOFB) is still committed to ensuring no disruption of services during this time of legislative uncertainty. On October 20, MOFB had the opportunity to share our farm bill priorities with Senator John Boozman, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry. Boozman led a forum in mid-Missouri hosted by U.S. Senator Eric Schmitt before the two visited a nearby farm to hear directly from farmers in the region about items of importance as the legislation is written.

I had the chance to share some of our priorities with the senators, including maintaining and strengthening the farm safety net and bringing common sense to conversations surrounding climate-related conservation spending. At MOFB, we believe much can be done to promote on-farm resiliency without adopting one-size-fits-all mandates that make it harder for farmers and ranchers to go about their business.

Despite the lack of significant news coverage drawing the public’s attention to the farm bill, Missouri Farm Bureau remains committed to delivering results for our members. We will continue to work with our Congressional Delegation to ensure a strong farm safety net in the next farm bill.