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Indiana ag leaders urge congress to pass new farm bill by year-end

Indiana ag leaders urge congress to pass new farm bill by year-end

By Andi Anderson

Indiana agriculture and conservation leaders are calling on U.S. Congress members to pass a new federal farm bill by the end of the year.

Indiana, the seventh-largest agricultural exporter and ninth-largest farming state in the U.S., could see significant impacts from this legislation. The farm bill affects 94,000 farmers and influences food supply, conservation efforts, and food-assistance benefits for residents.

The current farm bill, signed by former President Trump in December 2018, was extended through September 30, 2024. This bill funds programs in areas like crop insurance, nutrition, and rural development. However, partisan division has delayed the bill process, which is nearly a year behind schedule.

Brantley Seifers, national affairs director for the Indiana Farm Bureau (INFB), emphasized the importance of passing the bill this year. “Our members have been advocating for this farm bill for the better part of two years now,” Seifers said. “It’s crucial that it gets done in this Congress.”

If the farm bill isn’t passed by September, some programs may halt or receive reduced funding. However, programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and federal crop insurance can still be funded by government appropriations.

Dan Boritt, executive director for the Indiana Wildlife Federation, highlighted the potential negative impact on conservation if the bill isn’t passed.

“It would be catastrophic for conservation in Indiana and the entire country,” Boritt said. “These dollars allow farmers to take risks and do good things on the land that benefit all of us.”

The proposed House bill includes increased funding for specialty crops research, expanded disaster assistance eligibility, and broader safety net programs for farmers. Seifers noted that the 2018 Farm Bill was strong but needs updates, particularly in market access and foreign market development programs.

Part of the $1.5 trillion bill would support safety net programs and crop insurance, helping farmers recover from disasters like flooding.

Steve Howell, senior director of industry affairs for the Indiana Soybean Alliance and Indiana Corn Growers Association, supports these insurance programs, noting that they help farmers manage risks and stay in business.

The bill’s Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage programs offer financial support during low market prices.

It increases the reference price for corn and soybeans, providing payments to farmers when market prices drop below these levels.

The bill also includes funding for the USDA’s Foreign Market Development program, helping Indiana farmers expand markets abroad. Howell emphasized the importance of finding both domestic and foreign markets for Indiana crops.

While some Democratic Congress members have criticized the bill for limiting updates to SNAP benefits, it allows low-income Americans with drug conviction felonies to obtain SNAP benefits, a significant change from the 2018 legislation.

The House version of the bill also reallocates Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) funding to established, locally led conservation programs.

Boritt stressed that while the lack of climate requirements is a concern, the permanent baseline funding for conservation efforts is a significant win for Indiana.

The new farm bill is crucial for supporting Indiana farmers, conservation efforts, and the overall agricultural economy. Leaders urge Congress to pass the bill by year-end to ensure continued support and stability for the state’s agricultural sector.

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