Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow says in an exclusive interview with Agri-Pulse that she expects to have about $4 billion to $5 billion in new funding available for the next farm bill. She’s been working with Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to identify funding sources outside the bill. 

She doesn’t say where the money is coming from, but says it will help address issues in the commodity and crop insurance titles.

Stabenow, D-Mich., also says Congress is going to need to pass a one-year extension of the 2018 farm bill before the end of the year. House Ag Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., doesn’t think the extension needs to be that long. But USDA has told Stabenow a one-year extension is necessary to ensure commodity programs can properly operate. 

By the way: Stabenow says she welcomes the plan by new House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., to move a farm bill in the House in December. There are still significant issues that haven’t been resolved in either the House or Senate Ag committees, however. 

Read our full report on the interview, in which she discusses a range of farm bill issues, at

Ag disaster aid included in supplemental request

The White House has released a request for $56 billion in supplemental spending that includes $2.8 billion for agricultural disaster aid. 

The White House also wants $1 billion for the Food for Peace program to provide U.S. commodities for food aid, and another $5 million for the McGovern-Dole international school feeding program. 

“Humanitarian needs worldwide remain at unprecedented levels due to more frequent and severe natural disasters and worsening food security. Putin’s war on Ukraine is having a devastating impact on global food availability and costs,” a White House summary says.

USDA expansion of climate-smart practices draws fire from enviros

Some 126 environmental and animal rights groups are criticizing USDA’s decision to expand the list of practices eligible for Inflation Reduction Act funding to include animal waste storage and anaerobic digesters.

The groups, which include Food and Water Watch, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Campaign for Family farms and the Environment, argue digesters are too expensive,with costs of up to $5 million each. Digesters already receive a “huge share of conservation dollars,” the groups say in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

The groups say digester spills can contaminate water, pointing to examples of incidents in North Carolina and Ohio. 

Partisan fight gets new fuel as U.S. food insecurity rises

Some grim numbers in USDA’s latest annual report on food insecurity is throwing a new wrinkle into debates over the farm bill and funding for nutrition programs. 

According to the report, 12.8% of U.S. households were food insecurity in 2022, up from 10.2% in 2021. That’s the largest rise in food insecurity since 2008.

The top Democrat on the House Ag Committee, David Scott of Georgia, said the report confirms SNAP is “as critical as ever.” “We must reject harmful attempts by extreme House Republicans to slash SNAP benefits,” Scott said. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack responded to the report by calling for Congress to fully fund the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

But House Agriculture Committee Republicans fired back by blasting the report for not addressing the impact of inflation

“That there is no mention of inflation, much of which was caused by extreme government spending during the pandemic, makes this report nothing more than an attempt to stoke emotion and intensify calls for further spending.” 

USDA economist Matthew Rabbitt said in a webinar that the impact of inflation or the pandemic wasn’t evaluated as part of the food security report. 

USDA finalizes stricter organic livesatock, poultry standards

USDA has issued a new rule that will tighten standards for handling and housing organic livestock and poultry. The new regulations are a victory for the Organic Trade Association, which has been pushing USDA across several administration to get the regulations finalized in a form that will significantly raise industry standards. 

Montana organic egg and beef producer Nate Powell-Palm tells Agri-Pulse the rule will put all producers on a level playing field. 

       It’s easy to be “in the know” about what’s happening in Washington, D.C. Sign up for a FREE month of Agri-Pulse news! Simply click here.

“I feel like I have the confidence to invest in growing my egg operation,” he says. He says new standards for issues such as minimum outdoor access and stocking densities will help farmers meet consumer expectations.

Mexican dairy imports on the rise

Mexico, a major foreign market for U.S. dairy exports, will be both producing and importing more in 2024, according to a new analysis from USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

“As inflation in Mexico moderates, consumption of dairy products is forecast to increase in 2024,” according to the FAS office in Mexico City. “Milk, cheese, and butter production in 2024 are forecast to increase due to relatively lower input and dairy ingredient prices and strong domestic demand.”

Mexico is now forecast to import 185,000 metric tons of cheese next year, a 5% increase from this year and a 13% higher than2022. As to butter, Mexican buyers are forecast to import 450,000 tons next year, a 13% increase from this year. 

He said it. “America’s families are relying on Speaker Johnson, and Congress, to focus on pressing needs, including completion of fiscal year 2024 appropriations and passage of a farm bill.” – Zippy Duvall, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, responding to Mike Johnson’s election as House speaker. 

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