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Focus on Farm Bill Begins After Tumultuous Speaker Election

February 1, 2023

The tumultuous start to the 118th Congress has implications for the farm bill due later this year, as changes to House procedures may lead to a more free-wheeling approach to passing legislation.

Following a midterm election that saw Republicans win control of the House of Representatives by a smaller margin than anticipated, the opening of the 118th Congress saw the most contentious race for Speaker of the House in a century, with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) prevailing after 15 ballots once a handful of members agreed to drop their opposition following an agreement on overall House rules and floor procedures.

McCarthy gained by victory by making agreements with a small group of recalcitrant Republicans, which include plans to allow a wider array of floor amendments to be debated and voted on major pieces of legislation this Congress. This may have significant implications for the next farm bill. While past farm bill debates have featured scores of amendment votes, the last House floor farm bill debate in 2018 included fewer amendments.

McCarthy’s election also allowed House committees to organize. Reps. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA) and David Scott (D-GA) have formally become the Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee, respectively, and will be the House’s farm-bill drivers. Separately, and with significant importance for key dairy trade and tax issues, Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) won a contested race to become Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee while Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) will serve as the committee’s Ranking Member, continuing in his position as its top Democratic member.

The House farm-bill process is already underway. Chairman Thompson led a bipartisan delegation of members in January to Harrisburg, PA for a farm bill listening session at the Pennsylvania Farm Show. NMPF staff attended the session, which featured multiple dairy speakers voicing support for maintaining and tweaking the Dairy Margin Coverage program and improving the Federal Milk Marketing Order system, including restoring the Class I mover to its previous ‘higher of’ formula on account of the asymmetric risk farmers bear under the current mover.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate kicked off the new Congress more quietly. But Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Member John Boozman (R-AR) have also signaled a quick start to the farm bill process. The duo plans to continue holding farm bill hearings this winter and spring. NMPF looks forward to working with the House and Senate to finalize a farm bill this year that maintains and improves current policy regarding dairy safety net and risk management issues, conservation and sustainability, trade, and nutrition.