Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow is working to achieve a historic increase in conservation spending as part of a climate and infrastructure package.
There is still great uncertainty about the legislative path for climate spending. But Stabenow, D-Mich., Would like to add $ 50 billion in new conservation funds over 10 years to a package that Democrats may attempt to go through the budget reconciliation process, assuming it’s not part of an infrastructure deal with Republicans.
For comparison: The Agriculture Act of 2018 approved a total of 60 billion US dollars for nature conservation products over a period of 10 years, with a large part of this pre-loaded in the first five years.
“I’m pushing for $ 50 billion more for traditional USDA conservation programs because the White House proposal (for $ 1 billion in new conservation spending) isn’t nearly enough,” Stabenow said in a recent Farm Journal Foundation webinar. “We have a unique opportunity to expand these programs and at the same time create the basis for the agricultural accounts.”
Stabenow also wants to increase the funds for agricultural research, but has not said how much funds she would aim for in this area. Biden’s American employment plan “calls for more than $ 110 billion for research across the federal government, and climate-friendly agricultural research must be included,” said Stabenow.
Senate Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.
After a committee meeting last week, Stabenow spoke to reporters and assured Senator John Boozman, the top Republican on the Ag committee, that the agriculture bill of 2023 would be drafted by the committee. But Boozman, R-Ark., Suggested that Stabenow’s desired increase in conservation spending would mean a “massive” change in agricultural policy with no Republicans or most Democrats doing anything.
“The problem is that we are in a situation where we are or may be bound by significant expenses,” Boozman said in a subsequent interview with Agri-Pulse.
If Democrats decide to move legislation through the budget voting process, they don’t need a Republican vote in the Senate. If all 50 Democrats supported the move, Vice President Kamala Harris would have the casting vote. With regular Senate proceedings, 60 votes would be required to pass the bill, which means that at least 10 GOP Senators would have to vote for it.
A longtime lobbyist who supports increasing spending on conservation said it shouldn’t be so controversial as it would create a new source of funding for the next farm bill and the committee would have control over how the money is used.
“You can set and tweak the policy as you see fit in 2023, but the only real chance to get more money for agriculture is to run a big campaign to get as far as possible to zero (on Ag’s CO2 emissions) to come now exists. ” said Ferd Hoefner, advisor and former political director of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition.
Boozman emphasizes, however, that he “has no idea” what Stabenow is up to for the additional money. “The problem is that we don’t discuss any of these, just numbers. Why not $ 75 billion? Why not $ 30 billion? Who knows. It’s just numbers someone made up, ”he said.
One of his concerns would be the amount of funds that could be used for land idle programs such as the Conservation Reserve Program, which takes land off production for at least 10 years under current regulations. “I know that if you take a significant amount of land out of production, there needs to be a discussion of the potential impact on US export markets,” he said.
USDA is currently trying to add 4 million acres to CRP by increasing payment rates and financial incentives.
Boozman also says he has concerns about the possible tax hikes the Democrats would use to pay for the infrastructure package. Biden proposed raising the corporate tax rate, taxing all capital gains on death, and restricting the use of similar exchanges to defer taxes on property sales.
“This has huge ramifications,” Boozman said of the potential revenue streams.
Senator John Boozman, R-Ark.
A coalition made up of several major environmental groups as well as some agricultural groups, including the National Farmers Union and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, signed a letter to congressional officials on Tuesday granting $ 200 billion to conserve, research, and renew Agricultural bills call for energy, energy efficiency, forestry and regional resilience programs for the food system and supply chain and should be included in addition to the elements of agriculture, forestry and rural areas already included in the President’s US employment plan. “
But most peasant groups have so far stayed out of the fight. The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, which includes major agribusiness and commodity groups, is backing more funding for conservation programs and some form of payment to farmers who cannot qualify for carbon credits for conservation practices they already use.
However, the coalition has not proposed a specific amount of funding. Founding members of FACA include the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, as well as the NFU.
“It’s important not to get into soccer when the big dogs want a soccer game,” said Dale Moore, executive vice president of AFBF.
Moore, who was legislative director on the House’s Agriculture Committee during a partisan struggle over the Agriculture Act of 1996, expressed confidence that Stabenow and Boozman would eventually work together again when it comes to writing a new Agriculture Act due in 2023.
“I very much suspect they will find out and probably tell us how they feel we need to know and right now I don’t get the impression they feel they need to know exactly where they are will be, “he said.
Senate Republicans negotiating an infrastructure package with the White House haven’t given up on reaching an agreement, at least not publicly. The Republicans initially offered to spend about $ 600 billion. The White House countered last Friday with a $ 1.7 trillion proposal that Republicans were quick to reject.
Republicans expect to have a new proposal worth nearly $ 1 trillion ready by Thursday. Senator Pat Toomey, R-Pa., Told reporters Tuesday there was still major disagreement with the White House about what should be included in the bill beyond traditional forms of infrastructure and how to pay for it.
Republicans oppose considering changes to the 2017 tax law, saying unspent COVID-19 aid funds should be diverted towards infrastructure.
Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., remains an important wild card for Democrats. He told reporters Tuesday that he believed an agreement had been reached to deal with traditional infrastructure spending in separate legislation. Some people also expressed skepticism about one of Biden’s top priorities, which is $ 174 billion for electric vehicles and charging stations.
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