A Closer Look at the 2023 Farm Bill

June 28, 2023

Every five years, Congress reviews a broad package of federal programs and spending measures collectively referred to as the farm bill. The current farm bill was signed into law in 2018 and is set to expire later this year — although certain provisions will extend beyond the stated September deadline. With $428.3 billion in allocations toward various USDA programs, it has wide-reaching implications for both rural and urban communities alike across the country.

What is typically in the farm bill?

A significant portion — roughly 80 percent — of the 2018 farm bill’s spending goes toward the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), designed to support the nation’s most vulnerable households. But there are many other key provisions within the farm bill that are aimed directly at farmers and ranchers and the communities in which they reside, including the following:

  • Crop Insurance
    The federal safety net program protects farmers against fluctuating commodity markets and weather conditions that are out of their control.

  • Disaster Assistance
    Natural disasters can wreak havoc on farmland, livestock, equipment and facilities; the farm bill sets aside federal funding to aid farmers experiencing losses due to weather events.

  • Farm Loans
    The farm bill oversees the USDA’s Farm Service Agency, which provides credit designed to help producers start, maintain or expand their operations.

  • Conservation Programs
    Included in the farm bill are provisions for the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), designed to assist producers in their efforts to manage the quality of soil, water and natural wildlife habitats.

  • Research Grants
    Federal funding for research supports agricultural extensions and ensures that farmers and ranchers have access to the tools and resources they need to operate more efficiently.

In addition, the farm bill addresses other programs that are important to farm communities, such as rural development initiatives, access to broadband internet and more.

Looking ahead to the 2023 farm bill

How these programs will be funded in the forthcoming 2023 farm bill remains to be seen. Still, there are a number of leaders within the agricultural industry who are actively working with lawmakers in Washington to ensure the interests of farmers and ranchers are met.

Among those currently at the table for farm bill discussions is Jordan Scott, former South Dakota Soybean Association (SDSA) board president and a current board member for the American Soybean Association (ASA). “We've been working on the farm bill for over two years now,” says Scott. “It's really important to have those conversations and get what we need out of the farm bill.”

Scott is a row crop farmer from Valley Springs, South Dakota, who has long been a passionate advocate for the interests of fellow soybean producers. He has followed a leadership path blazed by his father, Kevin Scott, who also served in board roles for both SDSA and ASA.

A longstanding hurdle for the 2023 farm bill has been the debt ceiling, according to Scott. Now that a deal has been reached to lift the nation’s debt limit until 2025, he says talks have ramped up amongst legislators. But even in spite of what Scott describes as “productive” dialogue, it seems unlikely that a farm bill will be signed into law by the time the current bill expires.

Scott explains that the nuts and bolts of the farm bill are handled by agricultural committees within the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate before heading to a vote on their respective floors. The bills undergo several rounds of revisions before being passed and, ultimately, must be reconciled with one another before being approved and signed into law.

“It sounds like the Senate’s not going to see much of a holdup but that the House will take a little longer,” says Scott, who notes that it is not unprecedented for one farm bill to expire before the subsequent bill is passed. “There are extensions available, but hopefully we can come to some sort of agreement that will make everyone happy by the end of the year if not sooner.”