Rep. Glenn Thompson

U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), arrives for a caucus meeting at the Capitol Hill Club in Washington, D.C. on May 23, 2023.

(Photo: Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc. via Getty Images)

GOP Farm Bill Blueprint 'Puts Big Ag's Profits Over Everyone Else'

"America's farmers and consumers need forward-looking policies that build a sustainable, resilient, and fair food system," said one campaigner.

As Democratic and Republican leaders on Wednesday unveiled competing visions for the next Farm Bill, green groups sounded the alarm about the GOP proposal that "slashes nutrition programs and climate-focused conservation funding in order to boost commodity crop production."

U.S. House Committee on Agriculture Chair Glenn "GT" Thompson (R-Pa.) put out a "title-by-title overview" of priorities and announced plans for a legislative markup on May 23 while Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) released the Rural Prosperity and Food Security Act, which includes over 100 bipartisan bills.

"The contrast between the House and Senate farm bill proposals could not be clearer," asserted Environmental Working Group senior vice president for government affairs Scott Faber. "The Senate framework would ensure that farmers are rewarded when they take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the House framework would not."

"At a time when farmer demand for climate-smart funding is growing, Congress should ensure that support for farmers offering to reduce nitrous oxide emissions from fertilizer, and methane emissions from animals and their waste, is the Department of Agriculture's top priority," Faber said. "Unless farmers are provided the tools to reduce nitrous oxide and methane emissions from agriculture, farming will soon be the nation's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions."

Friends of the Earth senior program manager Chloe Waterman declared that "House Republicans have proposed a dead-on-arrival Farm Bill framework that puts Big Ag's profits over everyone else: communities, family farmers, consumers, states and local rule, farmed animals, and the planet."

"Senate Democrats are off to a much better start than the House, but they have also fallen short by failing to shift subsidies and other support away from factory farming and pesticide-intensive commodities toward diversified, regenerative, and climate-friendly farming systems," she added. "We are particularly concerned that millions of dollars intended for climate mitigation will continue to be funneled to factory farms, including to support greenwashed factory farm gas."

Both Waterman's organization and Food and Water Watch spotlighted the Ending Agricultural Trade Suppression (EATS) Act, which aims to prevent state and local policies designed to protect animal welfare, farm workers, and food safety—like California's Proposition 12, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld last year. The Republican bill is opposed by more than 200 members of Congress and over 150 advocacy groups.

"Despicable ploys to undermine critical consumer and animal welfare protections must be dead on arrival," Food & Water Watch senior food policy analyst Rebecca Wolf said in a Wednesday statement blasting the House GOP's priorities.

"America's farmers and consumers need forward-looking policies that build a sustainable, resilient, and fair food system," she stressed. "Instead, House leadership seems poised to take us backwards, trading state-level gains for a few more bucks in the pockets of corporate donors. Congress must move beyond partisan bickering, and get to work on a Farm Bill that cuts handouts to Big Ag and factory farms."

As green groups slammed the GOP's agricultural proposals for the Farm Bill, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) called out the Republican scheme to attack food stamps.

Stabenow's bill "would protect and strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), our nation's most important and effective anti-hunger program," noted Ty Jones Cox, CBPP's vice president for food assistance.

Meanwhile, Thompson's plan "would put a healthy diet out of reach in the future for millions of families with low incomes by cutting future benefits for all SNAP participants and eroding the adequacy of SNAP benefits over time," she warned.

As Jones Cox detailed:

Thompson's proposal would prevent SNAP benefits from keeping pace with the cost of a healthy, realistic diet over time, which the Congressional Budget Office estimates would result in a roughly $30 billion cut to SNAP over the next decade. The proposal would do this by freezing the cost of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Thrifty Food Plan (the basis for SNAP benefit levels) outside of inflation adjustments, even if nutrition guidelines or other factors change the cost of an adequate diet. The Thompson proposal's modest benefit improvements do not outweigh the harm to the tens of millions of SNAP participants—including children, older adults, and people with disabilities—who would receive less food assistance in the future because of this policy.

"Stabenow's proposal rejects the false premise that improvements in SNAP must come at the expense of food assistance for low-income families who count on SNAP to put food on the table," she concluded. "The Senate framework, which rejects harmful benefit cuts, should be the basis for farm bill negotiations moving forward."

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