Grassley not optimistic negotiations will yield a new Farm Bill this year

WASHINGTON — Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says prospects for congressional approval of a new Farm Bill are fading.

“So what we call the five-year Farm Bill of 2018 last year became a six-year Farm Bill,” Grassley says, “and it could become a seven year Farm Bill.”

The Democrat who’s chairwoman of the Senate Ag Committee released a framework for negotiations last week, but Grassley, a Republican, says the most likely outcome is that congress will vote to extend current Farm Bill policies for another year. “The certainty of a five-year Farm Bill is what we really need,” Grassley says.

Disagreements over farm subsidies are holding up negotiations.

“It may sound like rhetoric when you say: ‘We want more farm in the farm bill,’ but remember only 15% of the Farm Bill goes to the Agriculture Department,” Grassley says, “and then just a small percentage of that 15% may wind up in farmers’ pockets.”

The rest of the Farm Bill is mainly for food stamps and other government nutrition programs. Grassley says Senate Democrats have proposed a 5% increase to potential subsidies to cover rice, cotton and peanut farmers’ losses. However, the so-called reference prices for corn and soybeans that trigger federal subsidies to cover losses would remain the same.

“That doesn’t reflect this inflation of seed, fertilizer, chemicals, diesel and higher interest rates,” Grassley says. “We want the new five-year Farm Bill to reflect that inflation.”

The one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill expires at the end of September.