House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., said he believes if a farm bill is passed before the end of the calendar year it will avoid any “major disruption.”

Speaking at the International Fresh Produce Association’s Washington Conference on Thursday, Thompson and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., continued to express optimism that their ongoing work will produce a finished farm bill. Thompson said they are evaluating all farm bill programs to ensure there are no major disruptions that they need to take particular action on.

“I think we’re good until the end of the calendar year,” Thompson said.

Thompson was confident in the House and Senate Agriculture Committee leadership and that Congress “will pass a highly effective farm bill in a bipartisan, bicameral way. And it’s going to get done,” which garnered applause in the room.

Thompson said once leadership schedules floor time for debate, he will schedule a markup of the bill.

While speaking Wednesday at the conference, Keith Stern from the Office of Minority Whip, Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., said the decision by Speaker Kevin McCarthy to begin impeachment proceedings on President Joe Biden could “really suck the oxygen out of the House,” as he recalled three previous impeachment attempts since the Clinton era.

“We’ll see how that impacts the ag committee,” he said. “We also have to see how the ag committee works together” as those proceedings continue.

Stabenow said she and ranking member John Boozman, R-Ark., have been working to add money to the farm bill to meet the needs.

“The challenge is finding a bipartisan way to agreeing on adding dollars,” Stabenow said.

She said one way to find more dollars is if USDA can allocate Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds for the trade market promotion programs – Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development - and food aid.

“I fully expect we will see something robust. If we can get what I’m hoping, we can look at how we can basically have the equivalent of doubling MAP and FMD for five years,” Stabenow said. “Now the request from commodity groups is doubling for 10 years, but if I can get doubling for five, that’s pretty good.”

Before heading to Capitol Hill for legislator visits, Sara Neagu-Reed, IFPA director of production and environmental policy, said 44% of farmgate value comes from specialty crops, but only 8% of farm bill programs go to these programs.

“Our industry does not have enough, and it’s about progress,” Stabenow said, urging IFPA members to push for continued funding of the “bread and butter” programs included in the farm bill such as specialty crop block grants, R&D and trade development.

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“The agricultural landscape is broader than the traditional definition that started with the farm bill,” Stabenow said, noting that 20 crops benefit from the farm bill’s commodity title, but growers of 130 different crops can qualify for crop insurance, and there are 300 different crops grown in Michigan alone.  

Both Thompson and Stabenow said they're working to expand crop insurance to cover additional specialty crops.

“We need to be looking at new crop insurance products,” Thompson said. As it relates to crop insurance, Stabenow said she’s “promoting to increase the actual share of the subsidy amount that would make a real difference for specialty crops.”

Thompson said research is another important farm bill priority to be able to deal with pests and viruses and also research into mechanization and automation to deal with agriculture’s labor shortages.

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