This week I supported a one-year extension of current Farm Bill programs. While a conventional 5-year reauthorization of the Farm Bill is preferable, many of these critical programs lapsed September 30th. The current lapse shouldn’t affect 2023 crops, but a one-year extension was necessary to prevent reverting back to pre-1930s farm policy as we begin 2024. I’m pleased Congress has acted to ensure American producers will have another year of certainty as they work to put food on our table and fuel in our cars – and now the Agriculture Committees in the House and Senate can finish their work on a new and improved Farm Bill without putting agriculture producers in an impossible position.
Crop insurance, in terms of funding, is a small portion of the Farm Bill; however, its renewal is one of the most important provisions to Nebraska’s producers. Because of the investment protections farmers opt into with their crop insurance premiums, we’re able to avoid ad hoc disaster payments, ultimately saving taxpayer dollars while providing farmers an important safety net.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, in the Nutrition title of the Farm Bill accounts for 80 percent of its cost. As we continue to consider reforms to SNAP, I’m optimistic we can build on legislation we enacted earlier this year to minimize fraud and ensure these programs help Americans most in need.
Modernization and the opportunities available through the advancements of precision agriculture are also an important component of the Farm Bill. Spurring innovation while ensuring farm data is protected is critical to maintaining a level playing field for farmers and ranchers.
This week the House also passed legislation to prevent an omnibus spending bill while keeping the government open by continuing current spending levels for four of the twelve annual appropriations bills until Jan. 19, 2024. The remaining eight bills are funded at current levels through February 2, 2024, giving the House and Senate more time to responsibly cut spending and ensure significant spending decisions are not forced at the last minute with minimal accountability.
Washington must curb its spending addiction, and the federal government must continue working while Congress comes to an agreement on how best to fund our priorities. A shutdown exacerbates backlogs and wait lines at federal agencies and can cause gaps in services Americans rely on.
We can no longer dismiss the need to address our spending problem and continue down this dangerous fiscal path. In order to make meaningful change, we can’t kid ourselves that this can be easily fixed through minor adjustments to annual discretionary spending. What’s known as mandatory spending is the biggest driver of our debt, and this cannot be remedied overnight.
As Moody’s Investors Service has placed the United States credit rating on downgrade watch and the national debt of the U.S. now exceeds $33.6 trillion, we need to aggressively look at the drivers of our debt. This is why I support legislation to create a bipartisan debt commission which would focus on the underlying fiscal problems and solutions to bring America back to fiscal health.
Despite the difficult task of changing how Washington does business, Congress has a responsibility to maintain key policy programs, prudently fund the government, and do what is best for the American people. Just as American households have to balance their budgets, Congress must also. I’m glad we’re finally taking steps in that direction.