April 2024

Farm bills are wide-reaching and important pieces of legislation – that rarely are passed on schedule. Keeping with that pattern, Congress extended the 2018 Farm Bill for another year, so the new expiration date is September 30, 2024.

Now one-third of the way through 2024, it appears farm bill language may be on the horizon, as recent signals from key lawmakers suggest there will be legislative action in May. The timing has been ideal, as various groups of Farmers Union members and state leaders have been in Washington for spring fly-ins and NFU’s annual advocacy training workshop.

Photo by National Farmers Union.

On April 15–16, NFU hosted 14 Farmers Union members from across the country for NFU’s 2024 Spring Advocacy Training. This annual event brings in members to learn about NFU’s extensive advocacy work in Washington, in hopes to foster the next generation of family farmer and rancher advocates.

Throughout the event, members had the chance to discuss their farming operations, share their roles within Farmers Union, and better understand how they can use their experiences to advocate for their communities. The first day of programming focused on how members can become strong and effective leaders in their communities, which included a series of workshops focused on enhancing public speaking skills, working effectively with the media, and serving on boards of directors.

Photo by National Farmers Union.

On Day 2, participants met with the NFU Government Relations Team to discover tips and tricks for lobbying and learn more about NFU’s spring policy priorities. Equipped with their new and enhanced skills from the previous day and a slate of policy proposals, members split into teams and walked to Capitol Hill for an afternoon of congressional meetings. Twenty House and Senate offices heard from Farmers Union’s newest advocates on NFU’s priorities for the 2024 (hopefully) Farm Bill, including Fairness for Farmers, strengthening the farm safety net, supporting the next generation of farmers, and preserving a broad and unified farm bill coalition.

Members also advocated for ensuring farmers and ranchers have the tools and resources needed to confront climate change; supporting the growth and development of biofuels; maintaining a strong nutrition title; better supporting the next generation of farmers; and funding the Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network (FRSAN).

Participants left Washington with a better understanding of the federal legislative process and equipped with new skills and confidence to engage with elected officials at the local, state, and federal levels.

Photo by National Farmers Union.

After several weeks of conjecture about when or if the next steps would be taken to pass a farm bill, it now appears likely that a draft will soon be released. In early April, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA) stated “without a doubt, we will mark up a farm bill before Memorial Day.”

On April 15, several prominent Republican members of the House Agriculture Committee took to the House floor to speak on the need for a farm bill, suggesting the House majority has developed plans to proceed with consideration of a new farm bill. But what that legislation looks like, and who will support it, remains an open question.

In a series of short remarks from the floor, members of the majority called on Congress to pass a farm bill that better supports farmers, citing high inflation, increased input costs, and decreasing farm income as major challenges, while stressing the importance of a farm bill that protects food and national security. Speeches also highlighted the need for strong farm safety net programs, increased reference prices, and robust crop insurance, along with expanded agricultural market access.

The signals from the House majority are clear – the farm bill is coming soon. However, several Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee have expressed skepticism on Republican proposals they expect will be released. On April 19, Ranking Member David Scott (D-GA) released an op-ed criticizing Republicans for abandoning bipartisanship and proceeding with proposals he claims will jeopardize House Democratic support for the farm bill, such as cuts to nutrition programs.

The Ranking Member also cast doubt on GOP’s ability to pass a farm bill on party lines and reiterated support for investing in farm safety net programs without cutting SNAP benefits or restricting the Secretary of Agriculture’s use of Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) funds, both of which Chairman Thompson seems poised to pursue. Ranking Member Scott’s remarks were echoed by fellow Democrats, including Reps. Greg Casar and Rep. Jasmine Crockett, both of Texas, who told reporters they would like to work with Republicans on the committee to pass a farm bill but raised concerns over spending priorities.

In the Senate, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) have introduced the FARMER Act, which increases premium support for the highest levels of crop insurance coverage and reduces producer deductibles. This bill follows a January letter from Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) that outlined her priorities for improving crop insurance and other farm bill programs. These proposals are a sign of progress towards substantive negotiations on improvements to the farm safety net.

Even with substantial progress, Chairman Thompson’s move to proceed with a farm bill does not mean other disagreements – including Title I commodity payment levels and conservation funds from the Inflation Reduction Act – have been resolved. NFU will continue to monitor developments and urge Congress to pass a bipartisan farm bill. But not just any farm bill – Farmers Union members know we need the right farm bill.

Photo by lucasImages via Shutterstock.

Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an emergency waiver permitting the sale of E15 (gasoline containing 15% ethanol) during the summer months. This marks the third consecutive year EPA has issued the waiver, following major spikes in energy costs and market volatility as a result of various conflicts across the globe. NFU joined a group letter to EPA Administrator Michael Regan urging the agency to implement emergency fuel waivers and authorize the sale of E15 for the summer 2024 driving season.

Back in February, EPA issued a final rule approving the permanent year-round sale of E15 in eight states, effective April 28, 2025. While this was a good step forward toward permanent year-round E15, the 2025 effective date has created a “coverage gap,” which would have prevented the sale of E15 this summer, had EPA not issued the waiver.

Though EPA’s decision to issue the waiver represents an important win for family farmers, much more remains to be done to promote the development and use of renewable, low-carbon fuels. NFU supports the Consumer Fuel and Retailer Choice Act, which will enable the year-round, nationwide sale of E15 and permanently extend the Reid vapor pressure (RVP) volatility waiver to ethanol blends above 10 percent, providing nationwide uniformity across U.S. fuel markets.

NFU has also endorsed the Next Generation Fuels Act, which establishes a minimum research octane number (RON) standard of 98 for gasoline, requires the added octane value to reduce carbon emissions by at least 40 percent compared to regular gasoline, and incentivizes vehicle technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase fuel economy. By requiring high-octane fuel to use low-carbon sources, the Next Generation Fuels Act will decarbonize liquid fuels as vehicle technologies advance. This requirement, coupled with a new limit on harmful aromatics content, ensures the progress already made to expand the use of ethanol while lowering emissions will continue, and will lead to the usage of higher-level blends, such as E30.

Additionally, the Year-Round E15 Act will allow year-round E15 sales to begin this year, addressing the aforementioned coverage gap from EPA’s February rulemaking. NFU will continue advocating for usage of higher-level blends of ethanol, which will add further benefits to the economy, air quality, the environment, and America’s farmers.

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