On November 16, 2023, President Biden signed a short-term spending bill for the government. But what does this have to do with the farm bill? Well, this also included a one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill.
Farm bill programs and the USDA will now be able to continue operating until September 30, 2024—exactly one year from when the 2018 bill originally expired. This had to happen because the 2023 Farm Bill was not finished being written, debated on, and budgeted for.
With next year being a big election year, we are hoping that the final farm bill implementation will happen in the springtime. If this does not get moving as soon as the new year comes around, there is a worry that it could get pushed even further.
Some Specifics on the Extension
We’ve seen a lot of positives in the farm bill extension, along with some concerns.
Programs like the Organic Certification Cost Share Program and the 1890 Land-Grant Institutions National Program received more funding to continue into 2024. The Conservation Reserve Program – Transition Incentives Program (CRP – TIP) received $50 million in the 2018 Farm Bill. Unfortunately, the extension includes no extra funding. This means no new contracts for CRP–TIP will be taken on.
Thanks to previous grassroots efforts, important regional food system programs have permanent baseline funding. Permanent baseline funding means that we don’t have to fight to ensure more funding is provided. In the situation of a future extension, these programs would be funded to operate as normal. The Local Agriculture Market Program (LAMP) and Farming Opportunities Training and Outreach Program (FOTO) are examples of this. Some more specifics on the funding allocations in this extension can be found here.
Farm Bill Reauthorization
The additional 10 months to pass a new farm bill provides us the opportunity to advocate for what we want to see to support local and sustainable agriculture systems. In the Senate, some of the content for the next farm bill has already been drafted. We expect to see their draft a bit sooner in the new year and generally expect it to be more aligned with our priorities.
The House is likely further behind in its draft due to the continued debates on funding. A big topic of concern we’re hearing about is moving conservation-related funding (from the Inflation Reduction Act) to boost reference prices in USDA commodity programs. OEFFA is firmly against this. Boosting reference prices is not needed and conservation programs in the farm bill are very oversubscribed.
Another potential wrinkle in this timeline is the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) baseline scoring. The projection that the CBO developed for the farm bill is currently based on numbers from May 2023. As we get further into 2024, there may be pressure to update farm bill funding to new 2024 CBO scores. This would require a longer budgeting process, so we hope this outlier makes the farm bill a priority earlier in the new year.
Overall, we don’t anticipate the new CBO numbers will affect the farm bill timeline too much. We expect the farm bill reauthorization early next year, before election season.
We are continuing to hear from our conversations with Congressional offices that they’re still far from the finish line in voting on a farm bill. Follow us on social media and sign up for our emails to get more up-to-date information as we head into 2024. We will have a variety of ways for our community to take action to help secure a holistic, regenerative food system for us all.