US farm spending bill must include climate and hunger money, say key Democrats

By Leah Douglas

(Reuters) – The U.S. farm spending bill being negotiated by Congress must preserve funding for climate-friendly farming and federal food benefits to get Democrats’ votes, according to Democratic leaders on the House farm committee.

The farm bill, passed every five years, funds federal agriculture, nutrition, and conservation programs. The last bill expired in September and was extended for one year in November’s spending deal.

Typically a bipartisan effort, progress on the bill has been delayed by Republican infighting in Congress and disagreement between the parties about spending priorities, including how to allocate $18 billion for climate-friendly farming practices from President Joe Biden’s signature climate law, the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).

Democrats will not support a farm bill that reallocates the IRA climate funds or that makes cuts to federal food aid programs, House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member David Scott said on a call with reporters on Tuesday.

“Legislation always requires some degree of compromise, but we will not compromise on our principles,” he said.

After Republicans secured cuts to food aid in a spending deal last June, Democrats vowed to fight any further cuts to nutrition benefits for low-income people.

Other House Democratic goals include lowering input costs to farmers, supporting renewable energy projects, and enhancing scholarships and training for small-scale farmers and farmers of color, according to a memo shared with reporters.

Shontel Brown, ranking member of the farm commodities subcommittee, said some bipartisan negotiations were underway.

“The Republicans are going to need Democratic votes, so let’s get together and do what’s right,” she said on the call.

(Reporting by Leah Douglas)