Farm Bill Update June 2024 – Q&A

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Farm Bill Update June 2024 – Q&A

The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative’s (IFAI) Director of Research, Policy, and Tribal Governance, Kristiana Coutu, J.D.  recently discussed how the Farm Bill works, where Congress is in the current legislative process, and Indian Country provisions included so far.  

Check out this informative question and answer session with Kristiana below. 

What is the Farm Bill? 

Approximately every five years, Congress passes a new Farm Bill that sets programs, funding, and eligibility for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs. These programs impact nutrition, conservation, farming, ranching, utility and internet access, and more across the U.S., Indian Country included.  

While the Farm Bill technically expired fall 2023, Congress passed a one-year extension, with the new deadline of Sept. 30, 2024. Since then, Congress has been working through the Farm Bill process. 

What is the Farm Bill process and timeline, and where is Congress in that process?  

The Farm Bill usually follows a specific timeline and process. Here is a breakdown and where Congress stands as of June 2024: 

1. Hearings Process: The process begins with hearings where Congressional officials hear citizen input through outreach and listening sessions. These happened over the past couple of years in Washington, D.C., and communities across the country.

2. Committee Process: The committee process is where the actual bill language is drafted. Members of Congress who sit on the House Committee on Agriculture and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry are responsible for the primary drafting. Members draft new language and include language from “marker bills.”  A marker bill is a bill that a member of Congress has introduced to signal an idea or policy position but is not intended to result in a standalone piece of legislation. Each ag committee drafts its own bill.  The committee then goes through a “mark-up” process during which amendments are made before the committee passes its proposed Farm Bill. Each committee must pass a Farm Bill that then goes to each chamber floor for vote by all Congressional members. The Senate is currently at this step in the process.

3. The Floor Process: When each the Senate and House Ag Committee’s  proposed Farm Bills get to the point that each chamber is ‘marking up’ and voting, this is called the floor process. The House of Representatives completed the committee process in May and its bill will be headed to the floor process next. Once available, find the floor times and schedule here

4. The Conference Process: After each chamber passes its version of the Farm Bill, the Senate and House of Representatives must work together in a conference with members from both chambers to compromise and draft a single Farm Bill.

5. The Floor 2.0: Once the conference process concludes, the single version of the Farm Bill goes back to the House and Senate floors for debate and a vote by all members of each chamber. 

6. White House: After both the House and Senate pass a final Farm Bill, it goes to the  President to sign into law or veto it and send it back to Congress. The President can veto the whole Farm Bill, or specific parts. Congress can then choose to override those vetoes (should they occur) or allow them to stand, and then the bill becomes law. 

What legislative steps are next for the next Farm Bill? 

We’re still relatively early to midway into the Farm Bill process. The Senate version has yet to be introduced to the Senate Agriculture Committee, and the House of Representatives version passed the House Agriculture Committee in May.  

Next for the House is going to the House floor, which is when all House of Representatives will cast their votes.  

On the Senate side, they must pass a version through the Senate Agriculture Committee before passing a version on the Senate floor. The Senate Agriculture Committee majority and minority have both released Title-by-Title Farm Bill Summaries, but the two parties have not passed a unified farm bill through the Senate ag committee. 

Once Congress reaches the milestone of floor passage in both chambers, both Farm Bill versions must go through conference to become one single piece of legislation. The agreed upon Farm Bill then goes back to each chamber’s floors for a vote, and finally, to the executive branch for the president’s signature.  

Have any of the Farm Bill language or summaries included Tribal-specific provisions? 

Yes, the Senate majority and minority Title-by-Title summaries and the House of Representatives proposed language, H.R. 8467 – Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024, include Tribal-specific provisions. To name a few, there are numerous instances of Tribal parity, which means including Tribe, Indian Tribe, or Tribal producer within the language to extend program access; Tribal Self-Determination in nutrition programs; and Tribal infrastructure support. IFAI’s policy and research team have created a summary analysis of the House Agriculture Committee’s proposed legislation here

How can IFAI stakeholders stay updated on the Farm Bill? 

The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative is the research partner to the Native Farm Bill Coalition (NFBC). Visit NFBC’s website to learn more:  

Additionally, IFAI releases a weekly policy brief that includes key information, deadlines, and more — all tied to Indian Country food and agricultural law and policy. While the Farm Bill is important, and we include Farm Bill updates within the policy brief, there are quite a few other legislative and policy measures that impact Indian Country food and agriculture. Since there are so many moving parts, our team stays up to date to provide all the information in one convenient spot.