May-June 2024

“Without a doubt, we will mark up a farm bill before Memorial Day,” said Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-PA), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, at an event in early April.

Despite plenty of doubt and uncertainty, Chairman Thompson followed through with his pledge to move along the farm bill process. On the Senate side, Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) have done their parts, with each releasing their own farm bill frameworks. All of this action made for an eventful farm bill spring and more activity is likely in the summer and fall.

Photo by National Farmers Union.

On May 17, Chairman Thompson rolled out H.R.8467, the “Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024” – the Chairman’s mark of the 2024 Farm Bill. The bill includes a number of Farmers Union priorities, mostly pertaining to strengthening the farm safety net. However, NFU believes significant improvements are needed to advance the legislation further.

Farm Safety Net

Chairman Thompson’s mark was billed as the first farm bill since 2002 that invests additional baseline dollars in the farm safety net. For the Commodities title, the bill includes increases of 10 to 20 percent to the statutory reference prices for all covered commodities under Agriculture Risk Coverage (ARC) and Price Loss Coverage (PLC); increases to the ARC guarantee to 90 percent for the benchmark revenue for both ARC-Individual and ARC-County; and increases the maximum payment rate to 12.5 percent of benchmark revenue.

For the Crop Insurance title, the bill expands premium discounts for beginning and veteran farmers, develops new risk management products for specialty crops and disasters, and channels more funds to private sector insurance providers. It boosts the Supplemental Coverage Option (SCO) to be similar to the Stacked Income Protection Plan for Upland Cotton (STAX) and provides premium support for SCO to 80 percent. Improvements are also made to the Whole Farm Revenue Protection (WFRP) and SCO by raising their maximum coverage level to 90 percent.

Dairy provisions in the bill are focused on expanding coverage under Dairy Margin Coverage (DMC) by increasing DMC Tier 1 from 5 million pounds of milk to 6 million pounds. The bill also directs USDA to change the Class I milk price formula back to the “higher-of” classes III or IV.


Chairman Thompson’s mark does not contain provisions that prevent USDA from completing the ongoing Packers and Stockyards Act (P&S Act) rulemakings. In the fiscal year 2024 (FY24) appropriations cycle, the House agriculture appropriations bill contained a policy rider to block the rulemakings from proceeding. NFU strongly opposed this effort and helped defeat the inclusion of the rider in the final agriculture spending bill, thus leading to fears the same rider would be included in the House farm bill.

However, the Chairman’s mark included provisions from the A-PLUS Act (“Amplifying the Processing of Livestock in the United States Act,”) which allows certain market auction owners to hold ownership interests in small packing facilities, a practice currently prohibited under the P&S Act.

The bill also includes limited provisions from the Strengthening Local Processing Act of 2023 (H.R. 945), which NFU endorsed last year. These provisions would help small meat processing establishments with their Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plans and increase USDA outreach on the Cooperative Interstate Shipment (CIS) program.


The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), signed into law in 2022, provided $20 billion for USDA’s voluntary conservation programs, many of which were oversubscribed and underfunded, to invest in climate-smart agriculture. Programs which received investments include the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP), the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP), and the Agricultural Conservation Easement Program (ACEP).

Of the $20 billion from the IRA, roughly $14 billion remains unspent by USDA. The House bill takes the remaining funds and rolls them into the farm bill baseline, which will provide a long-term boost for conservation programs. However, Chairman Thompson’s mark removes the requirements these funds be used for practices that mitigate climate change and repurposes some of the funds to create new conservation programs.


Chairman Thompson’s mark includes restrictions on future updates of the Thrifty Food Plan (TFP), an economic model used by USDA to calculate how much it costs a family of four to eat. TFP serves as the foundation for calculating maximum benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The 2018 Farm Bill directed USDA to reevaluate and publish an updated TFP. The Biden Administration completed the required reevaluation in 2021, which increased the basic SNAP benefit from $4.50 per person to $6 per person per day. This was the first substantive TFP update since the program was established in the 1970s. House Republicans have argued USDA overreached with its update because of increased costs which Congress did not authorize.

The restrictions in the House farm bill still allow for USDA to review and update the market basket of goods that makes up the TFP but require any changes to be cost neutral, and benefit levels can only increase each year based on cost-of-living adjustments.

Image by Ron Adar via Shutterstock.

On May 23, the House Agriculture Committee held a markup of H.R.8467. The markup lasted over 13 hours, featuring lengthy opening statements in support of and opposition to Chairman Thompson’s mark.

During the markup, about 60 amendments were filed, 19 of which were relatively uncontroversial and adopted via an “en bloc” amendment, passing by a voice vote with near unanimous support. Several more amendments came before the committee for discussion and debate.

Of those offered, the most contentious and consequential debates centered around three issues, all of which failed on party-line votes:

  • Reduced spending for the nutrition title via changes to the Thrifty Food Plan – Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) offered an amendment to remove the cost-neutrality provisions.
  • Repurposing funds allocated to climate initiatives through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) – Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-NM) offered an amendment to re-instate the climate sideboards in the IRA funding.
  • Restricting USDA discretion over the use of Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) – Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-GA) offered an amendment to strike the language that would repeal USDA’s authority to spend CCC funds.

The proposed restrictions and modifications have been advertised as a way to “pay for” other priorities, or generate savings, as calculated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), to be used elsewhere in the bill.

During the markup, Republicans and Democrats sparred over whether the savings generated from restricting the Secretary’s use of the CCC would amount to the levels Chairman Thompson has claimed. Estimates from the CBO are reportedly about $45 billion less than Chairman Thompson’s projections.

To wrap up the 13-hour markup, the bill was reported favorably out of committee by a vote of 33-21. Every Republican member of the committee voted in favor, along with four Democrats: Reps. Sanford Bishop (GA), Yadira Caraveo (CO), Don Davis (NC), and Eric Sorensen (IL).

Image by Katherine Welles via Shutterstock.

Though no formal bill text has been introduced, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Stabenow and Ranking Member Boozman have each published details of their proposals.

Chairwoman Stabenow’s proposal, the “Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act,” improves the farm safety through increased reference prices, stronger ARC/PLC formulas, and an array of crop insurance improvements. Unlike the House bill however, it excludes the restrictions on Thrifty and the CCC and maintains the climate-smart guardrails in the IRA funding. Chairwoman Stabenow’s proposal also includes several Fairness for Farmers priorities, including the Meat and Poultry Special Investigator Act; making permanent USDA’s Cattle Contacts Library Pilot Program; and codifying USDA’s recently finalized “Product of USA” voluntary labeling rule.

Ranking Member Boozman’s framework, though offering less details, appears to mirror much of Chairman Thompson’s mark. The framework has many significant differences from Chairwoman Stabenow’s proposal, primarily on nutrition funding, climate change, and the CCC. On the latter, the framework suggests it will limit USDA’s discretion over spending CCC funds, though it does not completely restrict the Secretary’s authority as the House bill does.

Photo by Ken Schulze via Shutterstock

The 2018 Farm Bill was extended to September 30, 2024. The House bill and Senate frameworks represent major progress in pursuit of a full five-year farm bill reauthorization this Congress.

Though the House bill includes a number of Farmers Union priorities, these improvements should not divide the broad coalition of support needed to pass a farm bill out of both chambers.

There is likely to be further activity in the farm bill process in the months ahead. Farmers Union members will have an important opportunity to influence the outcome during NFU’s Fall Legislative Fly-In on September 9-11, 2024.

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