Lawmakers are starting their long summer recess, leaving behind fresh questions about the timeline for a new farm bill.

House Republican leaders wanted to pass two of the 12 fiscal 2024 bills this week, but had to punt on the USDA-FDA funding measure when they were unable to satisfy the demands of hard-line conservatives for deeper cuts. The House isn’t back in session until Sept. 12, and has only a dozen work days scheduled before the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1. 

House Ag Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., acknowledged he isn’t going to schedule action on a farm bill until he’s sure there will be time on the floor to consider it. 

The story is similar in the Senate. The ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Arkansas Sen. John Boozman, says the appropriations process will take priority over a farm bill. “The tyranny of the urgent is going to be getting the appropriations bills done,” he said.

Even though some programs in the 2018 farm bill expire Sept. 30, as a practical matter lawmakers have until 2024 before they will need to pass an extension. That’s when a 1949 law would kick in and require USDA to start taking steps to drive up dairy prices. 

“We’ve got several months of grace time,” Boozman said. 

By the way: Nearly 190 amendments have been proposed for the USDA funding bill, and some are likely to reappear again when the farm bill hits the floor, such as proposals attacking checkoff programs or sugar policy, according to House Ag member Dusty Johnson, a South Dakota Republican who’s close to the GOP leadership.  “I’m pretty confident that an overwhelming majority of the House are going to be opposed to … more aggressive policy changes like that,” Johnson says in an interview for Agri-Pulse Newsmakers. 

Newsmakers will be available today at

Lawmakers eye payment limits, Whole Farm expansion

Ahead of the recess, lawmakers rushed out a series of new proposals for the next farm bill. The new marker bills include a proposal by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, to tighten commodity program payment limits. Their bill would impose a hard cap of $250,000 on payments to a single farm operation and require recipients to spend at least 50% of each year in either farm labor or management. 

Crop insurance: Six Democrats on the Senate Ag Committee, including Brown, are proposing a number of changes to the Whole Farm Revenue Protection program to increase participation in the crop insurance product. Among other things, the bill seeks to increase compensation to agents who sell the product, while streamlining paperwork, raising the annual limit on farm revenue expansion and expanding a diversification premium discount. 

REAP: Reps. Abigail Spanberger, D-Va., and David Valadao, R-Calif., and Sen. Tina Smith, D-Minn., are proposing to increase the cost share and some grant limits for the Rural Energy for America Program, which funds renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. The REAP Modernization Act would also create a reserve fund for underutilized technologies and allow farmer and rural electric co-ops to apply for financial aid on a “case-by-case basis.” 

Pesticide incident data available to public for first time

EPA is making pesticide incident data publicly available for the first time. The information includes 10 years’ worth of reports on incidents involving adverse effects or product defects, to name two examples of the compiled reports.

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EPA touts the move as “a major step to increase transparency,” but the website housing the data also contains a warning: EPA says it “has limited confidence in the accuracy and validity of the data because the data entries are reports of one or more individuals’ perspective of what happened.”

“Caution should be used when analyzing these data as EPA does not guarantee the completeness or adequacy of the contents of the Incident Data System,” the agency said.

The data contain more than 62,000 incidents, beginning in 2013.

Mexico and China again drive US pork exports in FAS weekly report

Mexico and China were again the largest destination for U.S. pork exports, according to the latest weekly trade data released by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. The U.S. exported 23,800 metric tons of pork in the week of July 14-20, including 8,300 tons to Mexican buyers and 4,200 tons to Chinese customers. Japan, Canada and South Korea were other major destinations.

U.S. pork exports for the previous week – July 7-13 – totaled 25,300 tons, and Mexico and China were also the largest destinations. The U.S. shipped 8,000 tons to Mexico and 4,400 tons to China during the second week in July. Other destinations included Japan, Canada and Colombia.

Pork producers hurting with softer demand

Despite good news on exports, U.S. pork producers continue to face softer domestic demand coming out of the boost experienced during COVID and weaker export prospects, according to a new report from CoBank’s Knowledge Exchange.

“In addition to pressuring hog and pork supplies, the current market conditions are derailing hog producers’ expansion plans. And even if the cost structure warranted additional production, demand is a part of the puzzle that needs addressing,” says Brian Earnest, lead animal protein economist for CoBank. 

Earnest says backyard barbecuing has helped boost domestic demand some, but longer-term retail prices need to return to a normal level to further support domestic demand.

He said it. “I think it makes us less credible as a negotiating party.” – Arkansas GOP Rep. Steve Womack, a senior Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, on the Freedom Caucus demands for deeper cuts in FY24 appropriations bills. Womack argues that the cuts the Freedom Caucus wants aren’t realistic and will weaken, not strengthen, the House GOP’s leverage in upcoming negotiations with the Democratic-controlled Senate. In the Senate, Democrats and Republicans have agreed to stick to the spending caps in the debt ceiling agreement. 

Steve Davies, Bill Tomson, Jacqui Fatka and Noah Wicks contributed to this report.