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Will the Next Farm Bill Be Climate Friendly? Depends on the Midterms.

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Republicans have already vowed to strip climate funding from the bill.

This story was originally published by Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

This year’s midterm elections will decide the direction of a massive legislative package meant to tackle the nation’s agricultural problems. Republican Senate and House members are already vowing they won’t pack it with climate “buzzwords.”

Roughly every five years, lawmakers pass The Farm Bill, a spending bill that addresses the agriculture industry, food systems, nutrition programs, and more. This legislation is up for reauthorization next year. The political fighting comes on the heels of both the recently passed Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law including billions of dollars for climate provisions.

John Boozman, a Republican Senator from Arkansas who is a high-ranking member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, is among a growing number of Republicans who have said they will not allow additional climate provisions into the upcoming Farm Bill. If Republicans win back the House this November, which is still a possible outcome despite tightening Democratic races across the country, GOP members will be in control of drafting next year’s Farm Bill. 

“In their zeal to pass their reckless tax-and-spend agenda, they (Democrats) have undermined one of the last successful bipartisan processes in the Senate,” said Boozman in a Senate floor hearing this past August. Boozman said the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act without bipartisan support threatens the future of the Farm Bill, a generally bipartisan omnibus bill. The next bill needs to be authorized before September 2023.

Over a dozen members of the House Agriculture Committee, which steers the Farm Bill draft process, are up for reelection this November. For example, Abigail Spanberger, a Virginia Congresswoman whose district is near the nation’s capital, and a committee member and subcommittee chair, currently faces a contested election in her state, with inflation’s impact on farming communities a key point in the race. Glenn Thompson, a Congressman who represents a western Pennsylvania district, is slated to be the Chair of the House Agriculture Committee if Republicans win the House. After the passage of the historic climate bill this August, the Pennsylvania Republican said the Inflation Reduction Act “only complicates the pathway to a Farm Bill and creates even greater uncertainty for farmers, ranchers, and rural communities.”

“I will not sit idly by as we let decades of real bipartisan progress be turned on its head to satisfy people that at their core think agriculture is a blight on the landscape,” Thompson said in the hearing. “I have been leaning into the climate discussion, but I will not have us suddenly incorporate buzzwords like regenerative agriculture into the Farm Bill or overemphasize climate.”

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