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North Dakota farming community joins push for jumpstart on Farm Bill talks

© iStock - Luka Banda
Mike Moen

(Prairie News Service) North Dakota farmers and fellow producers from around the country are in Washington, D.C., this week, calling on Congress to prioritize the soon-to-expire Farm Bill.

The sweeping policy, which carves out funding for agriculture programs as well as SNAP benefits, is updated every five years, and parts of the current version expire at the end of the month. The looming deadline is overshadowed by another fiscal fight: Lawmakers must agree on a broader spending plan by October 1 to avoid a government shutdown.

Christopher Lundeby, a fifth-generation farmer from northeastern North Dakota, is among those meeting with members of Congress, asking them to kick-start efforts on the Farm Bill.

"You hope that they are truly feeling the same way that you are and are taking it to heart," Lundeby explained. "But at the same time, in the end, do they really agree with you or are they just trying to make you feel better?"

Lundeby is also with the North Dakota Farmers Union, which wants provisions like a stronger farm safety net, better and permanent disaster programs, and farmer-friendly climate provisions. But some House Republicans, namely the Freedom Caucus, have said they want reductions. Policy experts have said with an agreement out of reach for now, the current Farm Bill could see a temporary extension.

Even if a temporary extension happens, Lundeby pointed out there is real concern some aspects of the Farm Bill will be cut. He stressed with market concentration still a problem within agriculture, now is not the time to lose sight of protecting smaller farmers from corporate influence.

"Corporations and packers and other entities find the loopholes," Lundeby emphasized. "It needs work. It's getting better but it's still a struggle when it comes to some of the issues."

Labor organizations representing farmers also want federal policymakers to enact a competition title. They say it would increase fairness in the marketplace and address corporate consolidation in food and ag markets. Those who traveled to Washington to demand action are expected to wrap up their meetings today.