A former agriculture secretary, House speaker and House Agriculture Committee chairman are all expressing optimism that Congress can pass a new farm bill this year despite the sharp political divide in Congress and fractured House GOP conference. 

Speaking at the International Dairy Foods Association’s Dairy Forum 2023 held in Orlando, Florida, ex-Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman, former House Speaker Paul Ryan and former House Ag Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said a farm bill may be one of the few big pieces of legislation that gets passed this year.

Ryan, who spoke to IDFA members Sunday night, said House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and his team are thinking, “We can’t do nothing. We have to govern.” Ryan added, “I know that the majority wants to get one done.”

Ryan was House speaker when the 2018 farm bill was enacted after a battle over whether to tighten rules around SNAP eligibility and benefit requirements. 

Peterson, who joined Glickman at the IDFA meeting on Monday, said if the GOP leadership leaves the House Ag Committee to work on the bill on its own, there is a “decent shot” the legislation could pass. 

Peterson chaired the Ag Committee in 2008 and was the panel's top Democrat when the 2014 and 2018 bills passed. In 2008, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., allowed him to work on both sides of the aisle. “She trusted me, and she basically kept out of our business and that helped us be bipartisan to get things done,” Peterson said.

Glickman, who served on the House Agriculture Committee before leaving Congress to become agriculture secretary in 1995, said that although the Agriculture committee is less partisan than many, “it’s still a challenge to get people to work together.”

Ryan said McCarthy has his work cut out defending his leadership of the House to GOP members.  “I’m sure Kevin is telling people, 'I can promise you the efforts on the debate ceiling and negotiation of the budget resolution, but I cannot promise the outcome because there are other factors involved like the Senate and the presidency have a different party.'”

Glickman added if the looming debt ceiling doesn’t get solved, every item in the federal budget is going to be “sharply reduced.” And this would make it a lot less likely to get a farm bill passed.

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Many farm groups are asking for more money in the next farm bill, including higher reference prices by many of the traditional farm groups.

“I think it’s going to be very difficult for them to find any extra money,” Peterson said. Those groups are going to have to ask whether they’re willing to live with a status quo farm bill and using the money that they currently have.

Peterson said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member John Boozman, R-Ark., have a deal that “they’re not going to monkey with SNAP.” Boozman is prioritizing rice, cotton and peanut operations, while Stabenow is focused on conservation, Peterson said. 

“If they can just stay away from SNAP, and they can live with the money that is available, I think they can get this done,” Peterson said.

Ryan said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., is highly respected in the Republican party, works hard and is listened to by others. Stabenow “knows what she’s doing,” Ryan said, and she will look to this opportunity to secure her legacy before her retirement in 2025.  

“I think you’re in good hands in getting a farm bill job done,” Ryan said.

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