Rep. Dusty Johnson, a member of the House Ag Committee and chairman of the Republican Main Street Caucus, told reporters Wednesday he doesn't believe members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus are "interested in delaying" this year's farm bill.

But the South Dakota Republican, who is close to House GOP leaders, said that some of the more conservative GOP members of the House may push for cuts in farm bill spending that would prevent the bill from getting the support it needs to pass the House. 

"We may get to a point where the Freedom Caucus wants cuts to the farm bill that can't get 218 votes in the House and at some point, you've got to have the votes," Johnson said. "If that's the case, then I think we'll just have to keep tweaking the farm bill until we're able to get that passed."

Johnson spoke on a panel at DakotaFest in Mitchell with the state's two Republican senators: John Thune and Mike Rounds.

Johnson said he expects the House Ag Committee to have farm bill draft ready in the next three to four weeks. He expects it to take an additional two or three weeks before it arrives on the floor.

Thune, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, told Agri-Pulse at the event that he's supportive of a National Corn Growers Association-backed proposal that would require farmers to update the base acreage they use to qualify for commodity payments.

While an analysis by Senate Ag Republicans indicates 34 states would lose a combined $3 billion in farm program payments over 10 years, Thune noted the change would benefit South Dakota, one of the 16 states that would gain a collective $1.1 billion over 10 years. 

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"It does seem like something that's crying out for a solution," Thune said. "You shouldn't be using data that's 20 years old to make calculations about who's eligible, who qualifies for assistance under the farm bill and that's what we've been doing."

Updated base acreage could also result in net savings of $1.9 billion over 10 years, which could be reallocated to other things in the farm bill, like raising reference prices. Thune also believes some of around around $15.3 billion in Inflation Reduction Act conservation program funding could be reallocated for a reference price update if moved into the farm bill.

But Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow has insisted that the money stay in conservation programs. 

Thune said it will be difficult to raise commodity program reference prices without additional money. 

"It's going to be a heavy lift, because you've got to come up with it from somewhere else in the bill, and I'm not sure where that is," Thune said of finding the money needed to update reference prices.

"But I say that knowing full well that these referenced prices are incredibly dated [and] need to be modernized to reflect current market conditions."

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