WASHINGTON — Congress averted a government shutdown this week with a stopgap measure that gives lawmakers into early 2024 to agree on a full spending plan.
But it also extended the Farm Bill until Sept. 30, 2024, meaning it’s possible that California, the nation’s largest agricultural producer, will have to wait until then for the massive multi-year spending and policy measure last updated in 2018.
The Farm Bill covers over a dozen agricultural, conservation and food programs, offering lawmakers a chance about every five years to address issues in those spaces. Those include payments for major commodity crops — like rice or wheat — when prices or revenues decline; disaster programs for losses of livestock or fruit-bearing trees; conservation efforts; international trade promotion; farming loans and insurance; forestry management; and agricultural research.
While farming groups were pleased that key programs set in the last Farm Bill wouldn’t expire at the end of the year, it means that Congress might not address important updates until late in 2024.
“The current farm bill was written before the pandemic, before inflation spiked, and before global unrest sent shock waves through the food system,” Zippy Duvall, American Farm Bureau Federation President, said in a statement. “We need programs that reflect today’s realities.”
California grows half of the nation’s fruits, nuts and vegetables, a fifth of its milk supply and hundreds of different commodities, according to the state.
Earlier this year, state lawmakers sent Congress a list of revisions and maintenance that they wanted for the 2023 Farm Bill. Among them was the bolstering of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known in the state as CalFresh, which provides more than 5 million Californians with food benefits.
“Any budget or policy changes should continue the structure of the SNAP,” they wrote, “so it stays responsive to economic changes and adequately supports Californians in need.”
The lawmakers — representing California’s Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency and Natural Resources Agency — also pointed to catastrophic weather patterns in the February letter. They called for improvements to disaster recovery plans for farmers and ranchers whose crops and livestock were affected by drought and floods.
“Farmers and ranchers in California are on the front lines of climate change,” they wrote. “Their operations, livelihoods, and employees are disproportionately subject to unpredictable factors beyond their control, particularly severe and ongoing drought, catastrophic wildfires, extreme heat events, floods, and market instability to name a few.”
©2023 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Visit at mcclatchydc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.