Duvall: Farm Bureau wants bipartisan Build Back Better plan

ATLANTA — The American Farm Bureau Federation is unlikely to support the Build Back Better Act the Democrats have proposed unless it becomes a bipartisan piece of legislation, American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said at a news conference here Sunday.

Farm Bureau publicly opposed the bill that the Democrats hoped to push through the Senate under budget reconciliation rules until Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said he would not support it. Farm Bureau took that position even though the final version did not include the changes to stepped-up basis in estate tax law that farm groups opposed.

Any new version of the bill is likely to be smaller than the previous version, whose cost estimates have varied from $1.7 trillion to more than $4 trillion.

The last version of the bill included more than $90 billion that would be added to the baseline for the 2023 farm bill. Those programs are in conservation, research, rural development and school meals programs.

But Duvall said Farm Bureau objects to the fact that there no efforts toward bipartisanship in developing the bill and that it’s unclear how the money will be put into agricultural policy. The expansion of the baseline is not enough to warrant Farm Bureau’s support, Duvall said, because he wants to know how it would expand the baseline.

In a separate session, John Newton, the former Farm Bureau chief economist who is now chief economist for the Senate Agriculture Committee Republicans, said Sunday that if the Build Back Better Act passes, the Democrats plan to take unspent budget authority back and use it to increase programs under the farm bill. But Newton said the Democrats’ ability to do that will depend on the cooperation of whoever chairs the budget committees in 2023.

In other remarks at the news conference, Duvall discussed livestock pricing, agricultural labor, broadband and trade.

Duvall noted that when Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, first proposed a bill to deal with low cattle prices and high retail prices by requiring a certain amount of cash purchases of livestock, Farm Bureau opposed it. But Duvall said the bill that Grassley has written with Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., “is heading in the right direction.” He also said he expects delegates to address the livestock pricing session in the policymaking session scheduled for Tuesday.

Noting that Farm Bureau is disappointed Congress has not acted on immigration reform to allow more foreign farm laborers into the country, Duvall said that “marrying” agricultural to border issues “is causing harm.” Duvall said he wants Congress to realize that farm labor and border protection are not connected.

Asked whether $2 billion will be enough to close the digital divide between urban and rural America, Duvall said he has “no idea” if the budget authority in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act is enough but that closing the divide is vital for the future of rural America. Children who go off to college will not return to their communities if they don’t have access to the internet, he said. Getting internet service “could be the revitalization of rural communities,” he said.

On trade, Duvall noted that Farm Bureau believed that the U.S. government should have continued to support the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement from which President Trump withdrew and that the Biden administration should “re-enage” on it. He also said Farm Bureau wonders what phase two of the agreement with China will look like.

On rulemaking, Duvall said Farm Bureau has “great connections” in the White House, the Agriculture Department and other federal agencies.


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