60 House Republicans call on Speaker Mike Johnson to pass farm bill

60 House Republicans call on Speaker Mike Johnson to pass farm bill

More than 60 House Republicans are putting pressure on newly minted Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) to pass the farm bill.

The omnibus appropriations bill expired at the end of September amid broader disarray in the chamber — casting the future of a wide swath of American food and nutrition programs into doubt.

Now a coalition of agriculture state Republicans are pushing the House’s new leader to pass a new bill before the funding runs out.

The signatories, which include leading Republicans from key agricultural states such as Iowa and South Dakota, called the bill’s lapse a matter of “national security.”

They wrote that the funding is essential to keeping American farmers, ranchers and foresters in business and domestically produced food, biofuel and fiber cheap and plentiful.

“We urge you and the Conference at-large to be united in ensuring swift passage of a strong Farm Bill that is written by farmers, for farmers, and by rural communities, for rural communities,” the signatories wrote.

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But the push also highlights deep divides among House Republicans.

A majority of them did not sign the letter, including more than 80 percent of the hard-line Freedom Caucus, a group whose opposition to both government spending and bipartisan compromise helped drive Johnson’s predecessor from power.

The Freedom Caucus is pushing for steep cuts to aid programs that put food on the table for millions of Americans, in particular the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

SNAP makes up about 80 percent of the total farm bill package, and many Freedom Caucus members have signaled that the new work requirements for recipients — passed as part of the debt ceiling fight this summer — don’t go far enough.

“We’re going to work every solitary angle that we can” to curb SNAP, Freedom Caucus member Rep. Andrew Clyde (R-Ga.) said earlier this year.

Like 32 of his fellow caucus members, Clyde — who has said SNAP is “one of the largest government handout programs” and that it “needs to be curtailed” — didn’t sign the letter.

The only Freedom Caucus members to sign Friday’s letter were GOP Reps. Lauren Boebert (Colo.), Byron Donalds (Fla.), Clay Higgins (La.), Mary Miller-Meeks (Iowa), Barry Moore (Ala.), Ralph Norman (S.C.) and Matt Rosendale (Mont.).

The Freedom Caucus helped scuttle the 2018 farm bill over attempts to both cut SNAP and tie its passage to restrictions on immigration.

The 2018 bill ultimately passed with no Democratic support, after Freedom Caucus and some moderate Republican members switched sides to support it.

More moderate Republicans have opposed cuts to SNAP and federal conservation programs. In October, following a failed vote on the agriculture appropriations bill, Rep. David Valadao (R-Calif.) said that while saving money is important, “obviously we’ve got to do it in a way that doesn’t harm agriculture, doesn’t harm people who desperately need food assistance.”

As they head into what promises to be a brutal fiscal fight, the signatories of the pro-farm bill letter sought to make the case for the farm bill as an economic bargain.

They argued that for the price of $1.4 trillion over five years, the U.S. gets $7.4 trillion in annual activity, and the government rakes in $718 billion in annual taxes.

Those numbers mean the U.S. makes more than twice as much on tax revenues from agriculture than it spends on the farm bill.

“For a mere one-fifth of one percent of federal spending, the farm safety net, including commodity support programs and crop insurance, provides farmers and ranchers the foundation they need to manage risk, pass their farm or ranch down to the next generation, and continue producing,” they wrote.

But Politico reported in August that Republican leaders expected at least 60 Republican votes against the farm bill, and the omnibus is increasingly controversial on the party’s right flank.

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