Thompson releases reconciliation debt relief, conservation text
Rep. Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee, on Monday released the text of the entire agriculture section of the Democrats’ budget reconciliation bill.
Thompson made critical comments about the conservation section provisions that he described as “missing” from the bill that the committee sent to the House Budget Committee.
In a news release, Thompson said, “This bill is an attack on the farm bill process by extending narrow, partisan priorities beyond their expiration while leaving production agriculture hanging by the vine. This is what happens when congressional committees are held hostage by party leaders who have zero interest in protecting the individuals and communities who feed, clothe, and fuel this great nation.
“It is no wonder why Democrats chose to keep this text from their own rank-and-file members, let alone Republicans. This text and process will have significant political and financial ramifications, and further shows just how out of touch Democrats are with rural America and the needs of production agriculture. Rural communities certainly won’t be thanking anyone later for leaving farmers high and dry.”
An aide to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told The Hagstrom Report in an email, “This bill will add more money to the popular conservation programs farmers tell us they want. As Republicans well know, extending the length of some of these programs is a technical change required by the Congressional Budget Office to meet the requirements of the budget reconciliation process. This changes nothing about the chairwoman’s plans to reauthorize all titles of farm bill by Sept. 30, 2023.”
The conservation section of the 76-page agricultural section that Thompson released begins on page 61.
The text Thompson released also contains language beginning on page 39 that attempts to make changes to the minority debt relief program that was in the American Rescue Plan. At least 13 court cases have been filed against that program, and Stabenow has said the language in the bill will address the issues raised by those cases. The bill provides $1 billion for a program to be administered “using a centralized process administered from the national office for Farm Service Agency direct loan and loan guarantee borrowers who are at risk using factors that may include whether the borrower is a limited resource farmer or rancher, the amount of payments under the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program and other factors as determined by the secretary.”
There is also an additional $200 million for the Farmworker and Food Worker Relief Grant Program of the Agricultural Marketing Service to provide additional COVID-19 assistance relief payments for front-line grocery workers.
These provisions were not ready when the House Agriculture Committee marked up the bill and therefore were not included when the House Budget Committee approved the bill on Saturday. They are likely to be added to the bill when it comes before the House Rules Committee, in a manager’s amendment or on the House floor.
A House Democratic aide said the agriculture section Thompson released is a draft and could be subject to changes.
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