Farm bill process is underway but there's a long way to go for sugar and all farm programs

Luther Markwart of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association provides an update on the farm bill process and what's being done to promote the sugar program along with the safety net for all of ag.

U.S. Congress in Washington D.C.
U.S. Congress in Washington D.C.
Agweek file photo

The farm bill process, which is always long and winding, is well underway. Much of the work occurring now is listening to growers and their associations.

Luther Markwart

The House and Senate Agriculture committees, along with individual members of Congress, have held listening sessions and roundtables across the country. Each committee has also held hearings in Washington, much of it done through respective subcommittees depending on the topic being discussed.

Your grower leaders have testified in front of Congress and participated at roundtables in the growing region. They’ve done an excellent job, and we are thankful for their contributions.

The industry has remained busy with policy solutions to grower challenges. These proposals will be provided to Congress when the bill is finally drafted.

May is an important month because the Congressional Budget Office will project a “score” for farm bill programs. This “score” is a baseline cost estimation of current farm spending for the next 10 years. The costs of existing programs, the costs of changes, and the available resources will determine what the next farm bill looks like.


The debt limit debate will also in part shape the farm bill process. Clearly agriculture needs more. Once cost and resource allocations are settled, then it is just a matter of writing a bill that fit within the spending limits. With input costs significantly higher, most commodities are pressing for increases in the safety net.

Currently, both supporters and opponents of farm bill policies are lobbying members of Congress. Week in and week out, we work to convey the importance of our industry and its role in food security for their constituents. The lobbying process is not simply education; there is also a huge logistical side to ensuring members vote the correct way on amendments when the time comes.

As in the past, be assured there will be attacks on our policy. Sugar users are active in seeking reforms to our policy. While they want domestic beet production to expand, they present legislative proposals that would further harm farmers and our industry. It is clear in a post-pandemic world, domestic production and local supply chains are a critical part of our national security. Given the geopolitical uncertainties, unpredictable weather and unreliable global supply chains, Congress needs to support domestic production.

There is strong collaboration between agricultural organizations to get a farm bill passed. We all work together to get support for our respective crops. But we also show our support for other crops. The mutual support between corn, soybeans, wheat, barley, cotton, rice, peanuts and sugar ensures even if a member of Congress’s district does not produce a given crop, they support it all the same because we are interdependent. There is also mutual support between urban, suburban and rural congressional districts, because we all rely on farm and feeding programs to meet the needs of our nation.

With respect to the timing of the bill, the current bill expires at the end of September. There is a good deal of speculation that it will take longer to complete. Work is underway to try to get it done over the summer and fall, but that timeline might slip. Most members do not want to kick this into next year during a presidential election year. The closer you get to the 2024 elections the more difficult it becomes to get anything of great significance done. So, we press forward with urgency to get a good bill passed in a timely manner to provide a stronger safety net for American farmers who are the backbone of our nation.

Luther Markwart is the executive vice president of the American Sugarbeet Growers Association.

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