Soybean farmer talking about Farm Bill with Senator

(Photo: Joseph Hopper/Iowa Soybean Association)

Ernst offers farm bill updates

May 25, 2023 | Kriss Nelson

Protecting and enhancing farm programs is a priority for Iowa soybean farmers. U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst says she’s trying to do just that as work on the 2023 Farm Bill gets under way.

During an appearance at the Defining Decade field day at West-O Brewery in Milford, Ernst (R-Iowa) provided an update on work being done on the bill.

Work began on the 2023 Farm Bill last fall, focusing on the 12 titles that make up the bill.

One is the conservation title.

“I love working in that area,” says Ernst. “It is so important to our farmers. So important to our communities for water quality, healthy soils and clean air.”

Regarding water quality efforts for the newest farm bill, an effort will be placed on the floodplain easement program.

Ernst says keeping programs like floodplain easement and others voluntary is essential.

“It allows the flexibility for farmers to pick what works right on their land,” she says.

Iowa government official giving speech

Farm bill spending

The estimated budget for the 2023 Farm Bill is $1.5 trillion – nearly double the previous farm bill.

The expansion in funding is not all for the benefit of the farmers.

“Out of that $1.5 trillion, only about 14% of the Farm Bill goes to farm programs,” says Ernst.

Lawmakers designate the other 86% of the spending to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and food assistance programs, she says.

“The top line of the farm bill is large in part being written with the understanding we will move forward with SNAP and food assistance programs as a way it has been packaged for a very long time,” she says.

That doesn’t sit well with the public or Ernst.

“I often say we should re-title the farm bill to the food bill,” she says. “When I travel outside of ag country, there are a lot of questions about the farm bill and why American taxpayers are spending $1.5 trillion subsidizing farmers. It’s a misperception, and we must push back against it.”

Continued discussion

While hopeful and working toward consideration, Ernst isn’t convinced the farm bill will see the U.S. Senate Floor in 2023.

“We recognize the delay,” she says. “I am sure parts of the farm bill will be used as leverage in other discussions.”

A roadblock is the current debt ceiling discussions.

“That is looming out there, and we continue to have topline numbers for our budget,” she says. “We don’t know how expenditures will shape out for any of our departments.”

Once the debt ceiling is established, work will move forward with the 2023 Farm Bill and other bills that have advanced in the Senate and the House.

“I am grateful the agriculture committee is a very bipartisan group,” says Ernst. “We know we must get the farm bill over the finish line. We will figure out a way to do that.”

Both Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) serve on the Senate’s ag committee.

“Iowa has an overwhelming voice on the ag committee. Not just in the Senate, but the House as well,” says Ernst.

“States will rarely have more than one senator sitting on a committee,” says Ernst.

Additionally, Iowa has two representatives, Zach Nunn (R-Bondurant) and Randy Feenstra (R-Hull), serving on the House’s ag committee.

“Just know you have four out of the six members of our delegation fighting for Iowa interests in the farm bill this year,” says Ernst.

Ernst says she appreciates groups like the Iowa Soybean Association and others feeding information and taking part in this year’s farm bill.

“All across Iowa, there have been great voices coming together for the good not only for Iowa farmers, ranches and small businesses but for our communities as we look to protect our water, soil and air,” she says.

In Des Moines

At the state level, legislators in Des Moines just wrapped up their session where there were a number of “wins” in 2023. For more information, click here.