Amid the turmoil on Capitol Hill, a top USDA official told Agri-Pulse that Congress must pass a budget in order for the department to help lawmakers write a new farm bill.

“There is an immediate need for Congress first to pass a budget because the biggest challenge is if we don't get a budget, being able to provide that technical assistance that’s necessary [to pass] a farm bill is going to be exceptionally challenging,” Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Xochitl Torres Small said on the newest episode of Agri-Pulse Newsmakers, where she discussed the Inflation Reduction Act’s nearly $20 billion in conservation funding and the department’s attempts to hire thousands of new employees.

“We know that Congress has a lot of things they need to do,” she said. “The House needs to figure out what they're going to do in terms of speaker, then they've got to pass a budget, and then we will be here to provide the technical assistance necessary to get a farm bill reauthorized,” Torres Small said,

“It’s crucial that Congress pass a farm bill,” she said.

Debate over whether the IRA funding should be brought into the farm bill has centered on whether the funds should continue to be restricted to climate-smart practices, as Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., wants, or whether the money can be brought into the farm bill baseline, where it can be used to pay for a wider variety of on-farm practices, as committee Ranking Member John Boozman, R-Ark., has advocated.

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The IRA money “is a continued investment in programs that farmers already know and love,” Torres Small said. “It's also a continued investment in … making sure they get credit for that work when it comes to practices that are fighting climate change, fighting the drought that they may be experiencing, wildfires that are increasingly happening, and making sure farmers are able to build a marketplace as well.”

Also speaking on the topic was John Weber of Monument Advocacy.

“Conservation programs have always been wildly popular,” he said. “When we were doing the '18 bill, EQIP was always wildly oversubscribed, wildly popular with producers,” Weber said, referring to the Environmental Quality Incentives Program.

Danielle Beck of Invariant was also on the panel this week to talk about what comes next for the House Republican Conference amidst the current speaker race.

The full conversations with Torres Small, Weber and Beck can be found on