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Banks: Expect Farm Bill to Resemble 2018 Version


by Carolina Keegan

Published: Friday, January 27, 2023

Indiana Farm Bureau President Randy Kron led a question-and-answer session with Rep. Jim Banks (R-3rd) concerning Indiana agriculture and the 2023 Farm Bill last Wednesday during the Fort Wayne Farm Show.

The Columbia City native led with a discussion explaining some changes made in Congress, including a 72-hour rule for bills and an open amendment process. These two new rules for Congress require 72 hours between the proposal and vote of a bill, and the guaranteed ability for members to propose amendments to bills.

"The farm bill has to be bipartisan. It can't be a Green New Deal, radical climate change bill that the Democrats want it to be," Banks said.

"Since you brought up farm bill, it always has been bipartisan after the partisanship that we've had in D.C. the last several years, do you think they will be able to come together and get a farm bill done?" Kron asked.

"In the House, with the Republican majority, we're going to do our part to get it done. We're going to do everything we can to do the heavy lift and pass it out of the House," he said.

He voiced confidence in Rep. G.T. Thompson's (R-Pa.) leadership and expects this year's farm bill to be much like that of 2018.

"There are always controversial parts in the farm bill. You just take the good with the bad and hope the good part outweighs the bad. And the last farm bill, I think we got it to the place where it had that brunt. I think we can get that done this year, too," he said.

"My concern with the farm bill, too, is some of these green initiatives being mandates and not being voluntary," Kron said. "I always think you're better off using the carrot than the stick."

Kron hopes the farm bill can continue to avoid using mandates, which may ultimately hurt farmers.

"Do you think we can fend off some of the mandates on the conservation side?" he asked. "That's a concern for a lot of them here, that all of a sudden if you want to be a part of the farm program to get any support or any safety net, you'll have to jump through three hoops that probably aren't reasonable."

"I really think so," Banks responded. "I'm optimistic because we have the majority and because our Republican majority understands that, for the other side, the Green New Deal and the climate change stuff is an ideology."

He says that after Rep. Alexandrea Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) proposed the Green New Deal, it's policies began to be reinforced through infrastructure bills.

"I'm not going to let them do that to the farm bill," Banks said.

There is a worry, moving on to crop insurance, that farmers will lose eligibility for it if they do not comply with environmental initiatives, Kron said.

"Farmers are great stewards of the land, great stewards of their livestock, and I don't think they get credit for a lot of what they do. When I travel around, they want to take care of it right, they know to take care of the land you want to leave it better than you found it and it will take care of you too," Kron said.

However, many in Washington, D.C. do not seem to understand this, he added.

"I worry about transferring these farms to the next generation" in light of changes in eligibility rules for crop insurance, he said.

"That was one of the key fights we went through in the last farm bill, militarized crop insurance," Banks said. "I understand how important it is to farmers, not just in this part of the state but the whole state. And those are the types of issues that are going to come up that I want to hear from you about."

Kron moved to a focus on conservation and research, saying farmers want to "do the right thing" they just need the right amount of leeway.

Priorities Banks sees both personally and for the caucus include: Returning the supply chain to the U.S., reforming spending regulations for Congress and investing in agriculture. Key leverage points for the House are the farm bill, defense bill and the debt limit bill, he said.

"One of the legacies I think for this Congress, for the House, will be what we started last week: We passed a select committee on China," he said.

He says China is the biggest threat to America, buying farmland and disrupting ag markets. The committee will be bipartisan and focus on restoring and strengthening America and returning the supply chain back to the U.S.

Second, the U.S. currently has a $32 trillion national debt. Banks and other House Republicans hope to reform spending and budgetary regulations.

"That leads to a question, because this will probably be the first trillion dollar farm bill," Kron said. "When 80% of it is the nutrition (title), how does that play out as we move forward?"

"I just see investments in our national defense; in our national security; investments in our agriculture, which is national security. That's important to America. But it's not hard to find parts of our budget that don't have to do with protecting agriculture and our national defense," Banks replied.

Banks is confident that Congress can make cuts in the budget that are not in the farm bill or national security.

Kron then asked if there was anything to be done about broadband being distributed to rural America.

Banks explained that he had proposed adding broadband to the CARES Act, but it was blocked.

"We have to keep up that fight, and the farm bill is a really important avenue to get some of that done," he said.

"Another issue that's critical the labor issue Every farmer I've talked to, they want a workforce, they want to make sure it's a legal, safe workforce. Is there some way we can get to that?" Kron asked.

"We have a backwards immigration system in this country, where we incentivize and reward those who come here illegally and make it so hard for those who come here through due process," Banks said.

He has visited the border and describes it as a "travesty."

"We have to do something about it," he said. "The farm bill is probably a natural place to place some reforms in some of these guest-worker programs, and I think you'll see a movement for that, there will be bipartisan support for that, but there's a much bigger issue at play here."

Finally, the two discussed the new Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) rule and the Social Cost of Carbon's (SCC) rule that farmers must report their carbon footprint due to greenhouse gas emissions.

"When you're on a yo-yo, it's hard to know what the rules are," Kron said, concerning the changes in the policies through the past three presidential administrations.

The bottom line is "we have got to get out of the boomerang," Banks said. "We made great strides under Trump to rein in WOTUS."

He then addressed the SCC's rule.

"This is a game-changer," Banks said. "It is intentional. They might say it was unintentional, but it is. It's absolutely intended. It's part of the great woke movement of the radical left, the ESG stuff, to force all of you to do what they want you to do. And we have to fight back against it," Banks said.

The Fort Wayne Farm Show was hosted in the War Memorial Coliseum, Jan. 17-19 and hosted machinery, equipment, insurance and appliance booths, an FFA auction and much more.

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