NSAC's Blog

Welcome Back from Recess

September 16, 2022

Photo credit: Andy Feliciotti

This week, the House of Representatives and Senate are both in session for the first time since the end of the August Congressional recess. Although the Senate will be in session for two weeks in October, the final weeks of September will be the last major burst of Congressional activity in Washington, D.C. before all attention shifts to the upcoming midterm elections. The next several weeks are packed with activity in Congress and the Administration and will go a long way toward framing the start of the 118th Congress and its reauthorization of the farm bill. 

Funding the government

Current government funding – courtesy of the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 (PL 117-103) – will expire on October 1, 2022, giving Congress just over two weeks to negotiate, finalize, and approve a Continuing Resolution (CR) in order to prevent a government shutdown. Congress is currently considering a CR through mid-December 2022.

Congressional observers know all too well that, in theory, CR’s are not part of federal appropriations regular order. However, in recent years Congress has found it increasingly challenging to approve all twelve appropriations bills on schedule. Consequently, CR’s have become the new normal. This year, the House of Representatives managed to approve six of the twelve fiscal year (FY) 2023 appropriations bills through the House Appropriations Committee and the House floor. Meanwhile, the Senate has only been able to release the legislative text of its FY2023 appropriations bills. 

The House’s FY2023 Agriculture Appropriations bill – which NSAC analyzed earlier this year – would considerably increase funding for Conservation Technical Assistance (CTA) by more than $125 million and ramp up funding by $5 million for the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension (SARE) program. Many other key programs received “flat” funding. The Senate’s FY2023 Agriculture Appropriations bill similarly increases funding for CTA and SARE, although falls short of increasing investments in some programs, like the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative. Our updated appropriations chart shows that although neither bill is perfect, they both nonetheless include important funding increases to key programs that will not be a part of a CR. By their very nature, CRs create a lack of stability in funding for federal programs that can have real world impacts in addition to delaying increases in funding that are essential to developing a more just, sustainable, and resilient food and farm system. 

Yet, the major remaining hurdle to passage of a CR before October 1 is the ongoing negotiation on permitting reform, the federal approval process for energy projects, including oil and gas pipelines. Although it currently seems unlikely that Congress will flirt with a government shutdown so close to the midterm elections, negotiations in the weeks ahead on permitting reform will be the deciding vote.

White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health

While Congress makes a final push to fund the government beyond September 30, the White House will host its Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health on September 28. The Conference – which aims to end hunger and increase healthy eating and physical activity by 2030, so that fewer Americans experience diet-related diseases like diabetes, obesity, and hypertension – has been months in the making. 

The first White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health was held in 1969 during the Nixon Administration. That conference ultimately resulted in more than 1,800 recommendations that spurred progress in federal food and nutrition policy, including key expansions of the Food Stamp Program and School Lunch Program, authorization of the Supplemental Feeding Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC), and improvements to nutrition labeling and ingredient labeling.

The 2022 Conference is a critical opportunity to energize efforts to end hunger and promote nutrition and health heading into a farm bill reauthorization. NSAC believes that the path to long term success in reducing hunger, malnutrition, and diet-related disease requires a comprehensive approach to the food and agricultural system. To that end, in coordination with the Meridian Institute, the World Wildlife Fund, Bread for the World, and Farm, Food Environmental Policy Consulting, NSAC recently called on the Biden Administration to ensure that the Conference reflects the need for a comprehensive approach. The full letter is here, with an excerpt below: 

The White House’s September Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health is an important moment to galvanize efforts to reduce hunger, malnutrition, and diet-related disease in America. But to make lasting progress on these fronts, comprehensive food and agricultural system transformation is required. The bottom line is that we cannot have healthy people without healthy farming, and we cannot have healthy farming without a healthy planet. We reap what we sow.

We must seize the opportunity to transform the U.S. food and agricultural system to address hunger, nutrition, and disease. Doing so will not only help our nation become healthier, but it will also unlock solutions to other interconnected and critical challenges of our time like curbing climate change, restoring biodiversity, advancing racial equity, improving local and regional food systems, and strengthening farm, ranch, and rural economies.

Making meaningful strides toward building a healthier future for people and the planet

requires an all-hands-on-deck approach that capitalizes on the promise and ingenuity of

American agriculture. Building a more sustainable, resilient food and agricultural system that fosters healthy, thriving communities is within our grasp — so long as we work across sectors and commit to aligning behind shared priorities and policies that can get us there.

2023 Farm Bill Reauthorization 

Amid the moving pieces highlighted above, Congress and policy advocates continue to march towards the early stages of the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization.

Farm bill reauthorization will not take off in earnest until after the upcoming midterm elections, yet both the House Agriculture Committee (HAC) and Senate Agriculture Committee (SAC) have been laying the groundwork for reauthorization for months through Committee hearings and direct requests for input. For example, the House Agriculture Committee (HAC) will host a hearing in mid-September on the Conservation Title of the farm bill. The HAC is also requesting farm bill feedback through an online portal.  Throughout the course of 2022, the Senate Agriculture Committee has also held a number of hearings focused on preparing for the farm bill, including field hearings in Michigan and Arkansas, the home states of the Chair and Ranking Member of the Committee, respectively.

In conjunction with the pre-farm bill activity on Capitol Hill, many organizations are ramping up their own advocacy as reauthorization approaches. Later this month, NSAC will host farmers from around the country as they travel to Washington, DC to advocate in support of key federal programs.  Many of NSAC’s member organizations are also hosting farm bill “fly-ins” during September. Furthermore, coalitions and advocates are increasingly weighing in on goals for the upcoming farm bill – for example, NSAC recently joined over 170 organizations in calling for a farm bill that centers racial justice and climate resilience, among other priorities. 

What’s next?

The final weeks of September will be packed with fiscal negotiations, policy advocacy, and conferences, all of which will help set the stage for the 118th Congress and the next farm bill reauthorization. Yet the outcome of the upcoming midterm elections will be the key factor that defines the scope of the opportunities during the 2023 Farm Bill reauthorization.

Categories: Budget and Appropriations, Carousel, Farm Bill, Nutrition & Food Access

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