Peterson, Russell: Ag committees to face nutrition, climate-smart ag issues
|As the House and Senate Agriculture committees begin writing a new farm bill in 2023, the biggest conflicts they will confront will be over nutrition policy and the Biden administration’s climate-smart agriculture programs, former House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who now has his own lobbying firm, and Republican lobbyist Randy Russell said today.|
They made their comments in a Zoom session with members of the North American Agricultural Journalists.
Peterson said that if Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., the current ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, becomes chairman, he should meet with Rep. David Scott, D-Ga., the current chairman and likely ranking member, and find out “what the Democrats need on nutrition — not what they want, but what they need” to get the farm bill passed, Peterson said.
The problems that led to fraud in pandemic-related nutrition programs in Minnesota should be addressed, Peterson said. He added that even though there has been some criticism of Scott’s leadership style, Scott is likely to retain his position as the leader of the Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee and is unlikely to be challenged.
Peterson said if Republicans “are smart,” they will find Scott is easy to work with if people recognize that he has three or four issues that are important to him.
Republican opposition to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s use of the Commodity Credit Corporation to pay for climate-smart agriculture programs may also be a problem, but it is unlikely to be as difficult as dealing with Democratic demand on anti-hunger programs, Peterson added.
After dealing with those issues, Thompson should have the same discussions with leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Peterson said.
After this election in which neither party had big gains or losses, the attitude should be “Let’s work on what we can actually get done” and it should be possible to “back off the crazies in both parties,” he added.
If the Republicans don’t understand that they thought they were going to win 40 or 50 seats and may increase their numbers by only five, “what are they smoking?” Peterson said.
Russell said the words “easy” and “farm bill” should not be used in the same sentence, and noted that the 2023 farm bill will be the ninth on which he has worked.
Peterson noted that he has warned that the Republican Study Committee has proposed radical changes to the farm bill including separating the nutrition title from the bill and ending the sugar program.
Discussing Republican objections to the use of the Commodity Credit Corporation for climate-smart agriculture programs, Peterson noted that the Trump administration had used it for its trade programs and Russell noted that when he worked at the Agriculture Department during the Reagan administration, the CCC, a line of credit at the Treasury Department to pay for agriculture programs, was used to start the predecessor to the Conservation Reserve Program.
Russell said that if Thompson becomes chairman he will have to “grapple” with the interaction of provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act and the farm bill.
Thompson and Senate Agriculture leaders will all want to get a farm bill done in 2023, but Russell acknowledged that farm bills have often been extended in past years while the new bill gets finished.
On trade, Russell said, the most important action that needs to be taken is to confirm President Biden’s nominations of Alexis Taylor to be agriculture undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs and Doug McKallp as U.S. chief agricultural negotiator.
“Not much will happen if they are not confirmed,” Peterson added.
If Congress were to consider reauthorizing trade promotion authority, that push would have to come from the executive branch, Russell said.
Peterson has said it is hard to write the farm bill without more Democrats with farm experience. But with guns, abortion, critical race theory and transgender bathrooms working as issues for Republicans, “It’s a whole different world than it was 20 years ago,” Peterson said. “Maybe we have to have a farm crisis to change the politics out here.”