The perennial farm bill fight over spending for nutrition versus commodity programs has begun with heated exchanges in the Senate Ag Committee that could make writing a 2023 farm bill even more difficult.
“You directed it, so it is current law built into the baseline.” That’s the answer from USDA Deputy Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Stacy Dean defending a major food stamp spending update of the Thrifty Food Plan food basket, directed by the last farm bill.
But it was not the answer top Senate Ag Republican John Boozman was looking for. “The entire farm bill scored at 867 billion dollars. You spent 250 billion dollars unilaterally. Congress had no intention of you doing that—none. And if you understood that that was going to happen, then you should have alerted Congress, because it’s not just 250 billion dollars. What we’re understanding now, we’re talking about another 90 billion dollars, so a third of a trillion dollars, with an 867 billion dollar bill. I mean, how can we trust you.”
Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow defended USDA; “So, we cut SNAP, it doesn’t add money to the commodity title. We add money to the commodity title, it doesn’t affect SNAP.”
But that was not Boozman’s view; “What you’re going to do is crowd out our ability to use funds because you’ve already spent them on other programs—that’s totally unacceptable. And like I say, the big thing is that’s going to really limit, I think, our ability to help the other programs, which I desperately want to do.”
Programs like crop insurance, conservation, ARC and PLC, that Boozman claims will now be squeezed further, even with a new bigger baseline, leaving Stabenow to conclude “we’ve got a lot of work to do as we figure out how we’re going to proceed” on the next farm bill.