WASHINGTON D.C. — Since late 2022, Montana's Congressional Delegation has held numerous Farm Bill Roundtables around the state. It provides insight from producers on the ground in production agriculture to express concerns and what they would like to see in the next Farm Bill.
"The Farm Bill is extremely important to food security in this country, not only to farmers and ranchers but also to the general population. It's important that we give the stability to the farming community that's needed," shared Brett DeBruycker, a Teton County Farmer and Rancher.
Since Congress's return to Washington after Labor Day, the Farm Bill expires on September 30. That looming deadline coupled with a potential Government Shutdown means agriculture producers could have to wait a while for answers on important federal funding programs.
"I hear that by the end of this month, it's just not going to happen, possibly by the end of the year, possibly, by the first quarter, next year, we don't know," expressed Nathan Keane, President of the Montana Grain Growers Association.
In its official title, The Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, the current Farm Bill is estimated to hold upwards of $428 billion in federal funding. That funding is managed by the United States Department of Agriculture.
There is irony in the name as, $325.8 billion is spent on social food programs, like SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. SNAP benefits have a grasp on 76% of Farm Bill funding. The next largest area of funding is allotted to Crop Insurance, supplementing $38.5 billion in aid to farmers. While 7% of that funding goes to Commodities and Conservation and the remaining 1% goes to miscellaneous programs.
"You won't be able to push any of these agricultural programs, the crop insurance, the reference points, the safety nets for farmers without pushing this massive SNAP social programs along with it," added Keane.
Congress meets every 5 years to build out a new piece of legislation. On a 10-year scale, Keane and other industry professionals expect the Farm Bill to grow to $1.2 trillion in size.
As Congress continues to put the Farm Bill on a backburner, with no potential agreement in sight, the fate of the Farm Bill is in a haze. That haze puts the sovereignty of a nation on the line.
"At the end of the day, the nation, our nation, is only secure if it's able to feed itself. Food security is national security." Senator Steve Daines said at his Spring Farm Bill session.
"The old saying, if you eat, you're involved in agriculture, so just about everybody is involved in agriculture, because everybody I know that's walking around is eating," added Senator Tester.
This week on your local MTN Station, you can look out for new stories regarding the Farm Bill on morning and evening broadcasts. Topics have been chosen from when MTN News attended Farm Bill hearings around the state. The coverage is made possible by the Greater Montana Foundation.