Prospects for moving a farm bill anytime soon are anything but improved with the director of the Congressional Budget Office telling lawmakers he can’t add staff to work on the legislation. CBO produces the critical cost estimates that lawmakers need for modifying farm bill programs. 

“It’s not OK not to have scores that we need to write the farm bill,” a frustrated Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told Agri-Pulse on Thursday after CBO released a letter to the committee leaders. 

She said writing the farm bill “is much slower than we would like” because of a delay in getting CBO cost estimates. 

By the way: Stabenow reiterated that there’s no new funding in sight for the next farm bill, other than the Inflation Reduction Program money that could be brought into the farm bill baseline. “We asked the Budget Committee for additional dollars, and the House did as well. We did not get them. And then frankly, there were some discretionary dollars that we were looking to, and they got taken in the debt deal.”

Dem leader comments on Scott, task force

Agri-Pulse’s Noah Wicks caught up with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries Thursday to ask him about the Democrats’ farm bill task force and its relation to David Scott, the committee’s ranking Democrat. The task force allows “every single member of the House Democratic Caucus to have a vehicle to have their voices heard as it relates to agricultural and nutrition issues for the 21st century,” Jeffries said.

Jeffries was also asked about the suggestion by House Ag Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., that the task force looked like an “end run” around Scott.

Jeffries’ answer: “I have great respect for David Scott, and he is, and will continue to be, an incredibly important voice on a whole host of issues related to his committee.”

NCGA endorses mandatory base update

The National Corn Growers Association is now calling for a mandatory update of commodity program base acres. Delegates to the NCGA’s annual Corn Congress on Thursday voted 84-33 to take that position. Payments under the Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage programs are tied to what a farm’s cropping patterns were two decades ago.

Keep in mind: A mandatory base update could cost farmers some program support, if they’ve shifted to planting crops like soybeans that are less likely to trigger payments. There are significantly more acres planted to soybeans now than there are base soybean acres. On the other hand, wheat base far exceeds planted acreage.

The American Soybean Association’s position is that a base update should be voluntary. The National Association of Wheat Growers favors keeping the historical allocation.

In a statement to Agri-Pulse, the Senate Ag Committee’s ranking Republican, John Boozman of Arkansas, said a mandatory base update “simply does not have widespread farmer support behind it.”

NCGA said in a statement to Agri-Pulse about the resolution that the group will “continue to work together to advocate for a farm bill this year that addresses the needs of corn growers.”

By the way: NCGA members also approved a resolution calling for restricting ownership of U.S. farmland to citizens and permanent residents, with the exception of acreage used for research or food processing. 

Lawmakers seek means test exemption

A bipartisan group of lawmakers has introduced a farm bill proposal that would benefit specialty crop growers and other farmers who are locked out of conservation programs because of the $900,000 limit on adjusted gross income. The Growing Access to Environmental Sustainability (GATES) Act led by Reps. David Rouzer, R-N.C., and Jimmy Panetta, D-Calif., would exempt from that means test producers who get 75% of their income from farming or related businesses. 

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The exemption would apply to the Conservation Reserve Program, Environmental Quality Incentives Program and Conservation Stewardship Program. “Agricultural producers are on the frontlines of our conservation efforts, yet too often are unable to access federal programs designed to assist their work as good stewards of our environment,” said Panetta. 

Gillibrand calls for SNAP expansion

Despite Stabenow’s message that there’s no new funding for the farm bill, some progressives are pushing to expand eligibility for SNAP. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat who’s a member of the Senate Ag Committee, tells Agri-Pulse Newsmakers she’s pushing to make college students and the territory of Puerto Rico eligible for the program. 

She also says SNAP benefits need to be raised again, despite the increase provided by the 2021 update to the Thrifty Food Plan. “It's true that the cost (of the program) has gone up, but the need is greater and the amount we're investing isn't even meeting the need,” Gillibrand says. 

This week’s Newsmakers will be available today at

House Rs demand more answers on food fraud

Republican members of Congress are pressing the Agriculture Department for information on a food fraud scheme valued at about $250 million that has prompted indictments and guilty pleas.

Minnesota Republican Rep. Brad Finstad led the letter, which was signed by House Ag Chairman Glenn Thompson, among others. The scheme ran from about April 2020 to January 2022. 

“Nearly ten months after my colleagues and I sent our original request, the administration has yet to provide a substantive response addressing the lack of oversight that led to the Feeding Our Future fraud scheme,” Finstad said.

Trade update: China gives boost to US sorghum 

The U.S. exported 137,900 metric tons of sorghum in the week of July 7-13, a 97% increase from the previous seven-day period, and all but 900 tons went to China, according to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

FAS data also shows a strong week of U.S. beef trade for the week of July 7-13. South Korean, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese and Canadian importers contracted to purchase 20,900 tons of U.S. beef – a 60% increase from the prior four-week average.

She said it. “Because you can only go so far unless you know what the policies you’re talking about will cost.” – Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., on how the delay in getting CBO scores is slowing work on a new farm bill.