WASHINGTON — The stop-gap funding bill that Congress and the President approved last week will not only keep the government open into the new year, but also temporarily extend the Farm Bill, which is the massive package of agriculture and nutrition programs that Wisconsin residents benefit from.
Extending the 2018 Farm Bill at its current funding level until September of next year means lawmakers in Washington have time to iron out the details for the new five-year deal.
“A Farm Bill extension means farmers can begin making their 2024 crop plans, knowing conservation programs, crop insurance, disaster assistance … the safety nets that they rely on will be there next year in case the worst-case scenario happens,” said Tyler Wenzlaff, the director of national affairs for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau.
Wenzlaff said farmers want to build on the success of the last farm bill by updating certain programs.
“Some of those changes we looked at were increasing DMC, the dairy margin coverage, updating those programs, updating different crop insurance programs, looking at base acreage increases,” he said.
Republican Congressman Derrick Van Orden, who is the only representative from Wisconsin on the House agriculture committee, said in a statement to Spectrum News that the farm bill extension makes sure our "food, fuel and fiber industries continue to operate seamlessly while the Agriculture Committee continues to write a full reauthorization package that secures the resources Wisconsin farmers need.”
In addition to agriculture programs, the majority of funding in the farm bill goes to SNAP, the nutrition assistance program, once known as food stamps, which helps low-income families pay for groceries.
“It’s pretty important for the Wisconsin economy,” said Steph Tai, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison law school. “There’s several billion dollars that actually come into the Wisconsin economy for that. And it’s important to remember that this is not just supporting those families, but it’s actually supporting Wisconsin businesses, right? Businesses get benefits when people use SNAP cards to pay for their food. And so, it’s supporting our grocers, it’s supporting our farmers, it’s supporting our local economy.”
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that one in eight Wisconsin residents benefitted from SNAP in fiscal year 2022.
Though funding will continue for now, some Republicans in Congress have considered cutting SNAP spending and putting in new work requirements for recipients, changes that the Democrat-controlled Senate and President Joe Biden likely will oppose.
“That’s really what the price is, so to speak, that Republicans will demand from Democrats: ‘You want increased spending on these programs? Well, then there has to be a work requirement for single men,’” said Jerald Podair, a history professor at Lawrence University.
With the extension approved last week, the farm bill will be up in late September. Wenzlaff hopes lawmakers pass a new farm bill early next year, so it doesn’t get caught up in the politics of the 2024 elections.