Farm Bill Update

The Lempert Report
May 19, 2023

The next Farm Bill is predicted to cost us 1.5 trillion over 10 years. And there's a lot of discussion this time around with the Farm Bill because about 90% of what's in the farm bill is for the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), food stamps. So there's a lot of talk in Washington that they want to cut that down. There's 42 million Americans who have to rely on SNAP one in every four kids do. And, and I apologize, it's not 90%, it's 80% of the bill goes for SNAP programs that's up from 76% in 2018. There's also a lot of talk about adding internet access to the rural areas of this country that comes out of the Farm Bill as well. 

Phil: And what they found, which was shocking to me, is that while the government has spent billions to try to bring high speed internet to the 12 million rural homes that don't have it, a lot of it has been fraudulent behavior where there's, in the last three rounds of reconnect, reconnect is the Farm Bill's name for rural internet. They've received 3.1 billion over the past three years, and they didn't have enough funding to make it happen. And what they found is they now have to have a new program to really qualify these people who say, oh yeah, gimme money and I'll give you rural internet. But it never got to people. They never did it. So there's a missing 3 billion. I'm sure some of it has been used and efficiently, but a lot of them hasn't. Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota, Senator, said they are gonna require applicants who get federal funding to deliver broadband, but making sure that they can actually deliver it. So with this Farm Bill, I think that there's gonna be a lot of debate. The other thing that I found really interesting is one third of Congress has never worked on a Farm bill before. They've got a lot of new members, so they don't understand the Farm Bill and how complicated it is. 

Sally: Yes. I thought that was interesting as well, and they will be looking to their more experienced coworkers in Congress to learn how they, they should vote, I assume. But yes, speak to some of the components of this farm bill that you've covered here, Phil. The SNAP portion of this bill is a major, major concern. Particularly with one in every four children being hungry in America, this is a serious concern. in 2018 we had what was put in place the Thrifty Food Plan, which changed the SNAP program to require an additional $12 to $16 per month per recipient, to make sure that they had enough money to actually get a healthy diet, to buy food that was healthy and provided those important nutrients, particularly for children. 

Sally: So that is a major component to this. And also climate solutions. There will be a lot of debate about climate solutions. A lot of farmers would like the help from the government to put in place and implement these new technology solutions to help them make their farms more sustainable. And so we'll see how that plays out. There is controversy because some feel that it opens up an opportunity for more greenwashing, which we have also seen in the industry. So it is important for us all to pay attention to these issues. We've also see that there's a prediction that this may not even come to a vote until 2025. 

Phil: It is. The Farm Bill is very complicated and we're gonna watch it very carefully to see what happens. But we can expect a lot of fights, especially over the Snap program as the federal budget comes under much scrutiny with the debt ceiling and the like.