House Agriculture Committee’s Food and Farm Bill Undermines Climate, Equity Efforts

Statement by Melissa Kaplan, Union of Concerned Scientists

Published May 17, 2024

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House Agriculture Committee Chair Glenn “GT” Thompson (R-Pa.) today released a proposed food and farm bill, the “Farm, Food and National Security Act of 2024.” The legislation, which would shape the U.S. food and agriculture system for the next five years, fails farmers, workers, and consumers in almost every way, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).

Critically, the proposed bill fails to maintain guardrails around roughly $13 billion in climate-focused conservation investments Congress made less than two years ago in the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). Instead, the House bill would support industrial agriculture practices that have no proven benefits to the climate, such as increasing price supports for industrial commodity crops.

While the chairman’s proposal does include a few positive provisions—such as support for resolving the land ownership issues that especially impact Black, Indigenous and other farmers of color – these do not offset the bill’s many problems. It fails to offer meaningful protection for the workers who keep the country’s food and farm system running, or to consider USDA Equity Commission recommendations to address discrimination at the agency and ensure farming is accessible to all.

In addition, the bill would restrict how Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits may be updated, limiting science-based changes to the Thrifty Food Plan and therefore preventing benefits from being adjusted to reflect the cost of a nutritious diet based on the latest scientific or dietary guidelines.

Representative Thompson’s proposal flies in the face of clear public support for programs that make farmers more resilient, protect food and farm workers, and help people of color and young people succeed in agriculture. The chairman recently called for a ‘tripartisan’ farm bill—highlighting his motivation to cater to corporate agribusiness as the third party—and this proposal reflects that. New UCS research found that agribusinesses, industry groups and others have spent more than half a billion dollars over the last five years lobbying on issues that include the next food and farm bill and donated $3.4 million dollars to the campaign coffers of three key food and farm bill architects, including Thompson.

Below is a statement by Melissa Kaplan, senior manager of government affairs in the Food and Environment Program at UCS:

“The House food and farm bill would eliminate critical guardrails that ensure Inflation Reduction Act conservation investments make farmers part of the climate solution. Farmers are increasingly impacted by severe droughts, extreme heat and flooding. Any final food and farm bill must include support for programs that help farmers adapt to a changing climate while also reducing agricultural emissions that are driving the climate crisis. Climate-focused conservation funding is essential to help farmers make their farms more resilient and must remain designated for this purpose.

“The bill is out of line with what the public wants and our food system needs. People across the country strongly support programs that help farmers protect their farms from extreme weather, like those funded by the Inflation Reduction Act. They also support protecting the workers who keep our country fed and want to ensure that small-scale, diverse and young farmers have equitable access to land, credit, and other vital resources. The House bill fails in these respects.

“The food and farm bill provides an opportunity to build a more resilient, sustainable, just and equitable food and farm system, for all of us. As it stands, this bill is unacceptable. We urge the House Agriculture Committee to reject this legislation. Congress can and must do better.”