U.S. government’s stopgap funding saves Farm Bill right on time

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The U.S. Congress has voted a one-year extension to key nutritional, crop and conservation programs of the 2018 Farm Bill through the stopgap funding bill.

The stopgap funding bill is a resolution that aims to prevent government shutdown due to lack of funds.

Lack of extension to the farm bill, which expired on September 30, 2023, could have ended funding for some agencies. Other programs would have reverted to the original funding system of the 1940s when the bill first became law.

Despite the landslide resolution by the House of Representatives and the Senate, the 2023 farm bill is still in draft. 

Neither of the two houses’ agriculture committees has yet passed the new draft that takes over from the 2018 one. 

The farm bill renews every five years. At renewal, it takes into consideration inflation, new farm technologies, apprenticeship programs, conservation and nutritional support.

Some Programs Saved by a Hair’s Breadth

Programs that were on the brink included the important Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Courtesy of its massive 41 million beneficiaries, the program will now run with normal funding till September 30, 2024.

Of the $0.5 trillion to $0.867 trillion that the farm bill requires each multi-year session, 76% goes to nutrition. 

Crop insurance consumes 9% of the funds, while conservation and commodities take a share of 7% apiece. 

Spending Above Estimates

Since 2014, when there was a 1% increase in the spending estimate, the farm bill’s spending has been overriding initial estimates. 

The incomplete 2023 bill, for instance, shows that it will cost $1.5 trillion between now and 2033. This amount will be equal to 2% of the total federal spending per the current fiscal rates.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) cites that the extra amount for the new bill comes from the ever-rising costs of running SNAP.

According to CRS, SNAP will need 84% of the farm bill’s budget or 8% more than it currently receives. 

USDA, other Agencies Receive Short Extensions

Agencies with programs outside the farm bill have also received funding extensions until early 2024.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) will now continue its farm loan funding at 2023 levels till January 19.

Another Agency that will see funding through mid-February 2024 is the National Flood Insurance Program. 

“Orphan programs” and biofuel research programs that were just about to lose out have got help from the biorefinery assistance program.

A sensitive loser, however, is the Women, Infants, and Children fund, a nutritional program under USDA. The program will cease funding on January 19 because it is not in the farm bill.