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North Dakota group: farm bill impacts every American

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Mike Moen

(Prairie News Service) Congress wants to know what Americans would like to see in the next Farm Bill. Producer advocates in North Dakota say it is something everyone should pay attention to, while warning about talk of major cuts.

The Farm Bill usually lasts five years and is currently set to expire in September 2023. Its major components include crop insurance and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The House Ag Committee has an online portal for feedback as it looks ahead to renewal.

Matt Perdue, government relations director for the North Dakota Farmers Union, said the broad policy goes beyond work done in the field. 

"Particularly for those of us that live in rural America, the Farm Bill's more than farm programs, it's more than conservation programs," Perdue explained. "It includes programs to support our rural communities, to help small businesses, to provide the infrastructure that our communities need. "

A group of House Republicans, some of whom serve on the Ag Committee, has proposed a major retooling. It would involve removing nutrition assistance and converting it to block grants with stricter requirements, while reducing crop insurance funding. They argued their blueprint is pro-farmer because of deregulation.

Perdue countered insurance cuts take away mitigation strategies for at-risk farmers, and added it would be detrimental to remove the nutrition component. He noted similar attempts in the past have not succeeded, and bipartisanship usually helps push reauthorization over the finish line. 

"Floating proposals like this certainly don't help that process," Perdue contended. "I think it's just a wake-up call to farm organizations and others who really care about our farm and food policy."

Other policymakers on the Ag Committee have called for stronger conservation incentives for farmers to adopt climate-friendly practices. The final version of the next farm potentially hinges on the outcome of this fall's midterm elections, with Democrats holding slim majorities in both the House and Senate.