A handful of farm policy lobbyists say the debate to fund the Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration could offer them insight into how the politics of Capitol Hill might shape the farm bill reauthorization process.

The House and Senate Appropriations Committees have both advanced ag spending bills, but the two measures are about $9 billion apart. The Senate bill would give USDA and FDA $26 billion in new budget authority; the House measure relies on $8 billion in rescissions to bring total spending to $25 billion. Those rescissions — including clawing back COVID-19 assistance funding and allocations from the Inflation Reduction Act — would likely stall in a Senate under Democratic Party control. 

Speaking on Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, Syngenta lobbyist Mary Kay Thatcher said Congress is poised to spend a few weeks in July working through the 12 appropriations bills. However, disagreements between bills produced by the two chambers could make it difficult to find agreement.

“The Senate was able to breeze through their [ag spending bill], but they added 2% more money than was in it last year. The House on the other side struggled mightily because they cut 30%,” Thatcher said.

Thatcher said farm bill watchers can take clues from the funding decisions made in the appropriations proposals.

Chuck Conner, president & CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, said the appropriations process has a “tough slog ahead.”

“I think we're still going to face some kind of an omnibus funding package here at the end of the fiscal year. I think that's going to be a very, very difficult time in Congress,” said Conner.

Don’t miss a beat! It’s easy to sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! For the latest on what’s happening in Washington, D.C. and around the country in agriculture, just click here.

Conner anticipates that partisan tensions will be high as lawmakers decide how to allocate funds to the government agencies dealing with agriculture.

“We just continue to hope that cooler minds prevail and they are able to keep everything going and pass a funding bill,” Conner said.

While many in ag policy recognize the looming expiration of farm bill programs, Conner said the reauthorization “really does need to get done.”

His advice to lawmakers is to “sit down, work these things out in a bipartisan way and let's just remove this risk and uncertainty from our producers.”

You can hear more from Conner and Thatcher as well as Tom Sell with Combest, Sell & Associates, on this week’s Agri-Pulse Newsmakers at Agri-Pulse.com.

For more news, go to www.Agri-Pulse.com.