The Farm Bill will expire Dec. 31 unless Congress passes an extension, which senators say could be included in a bill to keep the government open after next week. But Agriculture Committee Chairman Glenn Thompson, R-Pa., "said Speaker Mike Johnson had committed December floor time to the farm bill — and gave The Hill a preview of what such a bill might look like," Elbein reports.
The GOP plan would boost subsidies for peanuts, cotton and rice, "the only commodities that won’t get automatic price increases" under current law, Elbein reports: "To pay for this increase, Republican supporters of those programs want to cut food aid and take money from $20 billion previously allocated to conservation payments backed by Democrats, environmental groups and a wide array of farm groups. Thompson argues this move is necessary because 'at least two of those commodities are really upside down right now,' or facing expenses above the market prices of their products — an apparent allusion to cotton and peanuts. . . . According to USDA figures, market prices for cotton in 2022 weren’t high enough to cover the sector’s total expenses."
The plan would raise payments in the Agricultural Risk Coverage/Price Loss Coverage (ARC/PLC) program. "Critics say the proposed increases to the ARC/PLC will direct money only to a few thousand of the nation’s biggest farmers at the expense of programs that benefit all of them," Elbein reports. "Ten percent receive 80 percent of the payments, and 'only the largest of peanut farmers receive more than a few thousand'," Scott Faber of the Environmental Working Group told Elbein.
Jonathan Coppess, an attorney in the University of Illinois agricultural economics department, also takes a longer view. "However bad this year’s picture is for cotton, rice and peanuts, Coppess said, agriculture as a whole is coming off of two record years — and most farms that will qualify for ARC/PLC payments are very large, highly diversified operations that grow many crops, rather than just a few," Elbein writes.
"And even the idea that crops such as cotton are underwater this year relies on counting — as the USDA does — costs that include opportunity or capital recovery costs, or the “expense” of using land, labor or equipment for farming as opposed to using it for something else. This strains the very notion of 'expense,' said Anne Schechinger, Midwest director of the EWG."