Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee are offering to advance some Democratic policy priorities on issues ranging from nutrition assistance to rural community aid in a bid to win bipartisan support for a new farm bill.

A one-page summary, obtained by Agri-Pulse and broadly outlining the GOP plan, reiterated the latest position of House Ag Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., that Republicans wouldn’t move money from conservation programs or the nutrition title into commodity programs and crop insurance.

But the plan also included a reference to Thompson’s effort to restrict the way USDA conducts future updates of the Thrifty Food Plan, the model of eating costs that is used to set Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

The GOP summary says that “reinvesting any perceived savings” from the TFP provision would “expand access to families formerly disallowed to receive benefits; update work programs to support individuals in building career pathways without fear of losing benefits; invest and modernize commodity distribution programs, including targeted approaches for rural communities, [and] update and invest in programs that promote healthy eating, healthy behaviors, and healthy outcomes.”

Democrats on the committee met for more than hour Thursday to go over the GOP proposal. Afterwards, the committee's ranking Democrat, David Scott of Georgia, said it was a "good meeting" and that no counteroffer was developed. 

"We want to make sure that we put together a good farm bill and that it certainly reflects the feelings and concerns that Democrats have. … We’ll be ready to go and respond," he said.  

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Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, told Agri-Pulse Republicans hadn't offered any more details beyond what was in the summary. She said Democrats were working on a strategy for responding to the Republican plan.

There is no explanation in the summary of what Republicans want to do with commodity programs or crop insurance. 

The GOP plan calls for bringing the Inflation Reduction Action conservation funding into the farm bill, saying that doing so would increase the baseline for conservation programs by 25%.

But the summary stops short of pledging not to remove climate guardrails from the IRA funding, saying instead that the GOP is open “to further input on how to best spend those dollars across the title.”

The summary also says GOP members are willing to “hear from all involved on creative, serious ways to emphasize carbon reduction, all while protecting the voluntary locally led incentive structure that has long existed” in conservation programs.

The summary also includes a list of “additional Democrat priorities” that could be included in the legislation.

Those issues, which are only vaguely defined, include:

  • “enhancements to animal welfare protections;”
  • “innovative solutions” that promote “small cattle producers’ position in agriculture;”
  • Expanded assistance for “seedling and nursery support;”
  • Increased cost-share assistance through the Rural Energy for America Program;
  • Mandated technical assistance program for communities, including “persistent poverty counties, economically distressed areas, socially vulnerable communities, and colonias.”
  • A significant expansion in funding for specialty crop “programming;”
  • “Further investment in organic programming.”

Thompson has said he intends to move a bill through committee next month. 

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