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Chairman Thompson Delivers Opening Statement at Markup of the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Glenn “GT” Thompson (PA-15), delivered the following opening remarks at today’s full committee markup of H.R. 8467, the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024:

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

Good morning, and welcome to the Committee’s consideration of the Farm, Food, and National Security Act of 2024.

When I became Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, I took seriously my mandate to protect our food supply and enhance the impact of our nation’s agricultural value chain. Across each title of this bill are new and better tools and resources for our farmers and rural communities. From production and processing, to delivery and consumption, this bill strengthens the rural economy across every region, state, and district.

While a few armchair critics have gotten louder these last few weeks, aiming to divide the Committee and fracture the process that brings about a bipartisan, bicameral Farm Bill, I believe it is important to focus on the substance of the legislation before us today.

Over the past few decades, the farm safety net has lost its ability to protect those who are the backbone of our great nation. American farmers face natural disasters, take huge personal risk, and are at the whims of regulatory overreach. It is a privilege to deliver a farm bill that strengthens the risk mitigation measures available to producers, providing certainty in a time of volatility.

The restoration of the farm safety net does come at a cost, and I have spent a lot of time with the Congressional Budget Office and the Budget Committee to correct erroneous assumptions. The Budget Committee has been a terrific partner, and that work will continue to ensure that not only do we correct those erroneous assessments, but do so in a transparent, judicious manner that restores the farm safety net and integrity to current and future agricultural estimates.

The Farm, Food, and National Security Act also provides historic, long-term investments in conservation programming through a practical reinvestment of Inflation Reduction Act conservation dollars. Reorganizing these dollars allows substantial investment in the voluntary, locally-led, and incentive-based conservation programs that are popular, flexible, and beneficial.  As many of you know, the conservation portion of the IRA was not considered by this Committee in 2021, instead $20 billion appeared once the bill moved to the Rules Committee. So today, the bill before us uses those dollars for conservation programming in Title II, something so important to this Committee.

Over the past few weeks, many have voiced concerns about a policy shift that both restores regular order and allows transformational investment in our low-income communities.

For more than 40 years, updates to the Thrifty Food Plan were cost neutral. In 2021, President Biden unilaterally, intentionally—and according to GAO—unlawfully, updated the market basket to no longer be cost neutral, resulting in a $256 billion addition to the farm bill baseline.

The Administration and my Democratic colleagues purport the update was science-based and transparent, and have even gone so far to say that no one can arbitrarily increase SNAP. However, Secretary Vilsack stood by his team as they did just that, through a rushed process devoid of thoroughness and filled with politics.

The TFP update before us does not cater to any one side; it is a balanced approach, forward-looking, underscored by the need for Congress to reassert its authority.

If the benefit must be increased beyond inflation, Congress must consider and execute.

Importantly, and as CBO recognizes, annual cost of living adjustments remain, so SNAP benefits will continue to rise and respond to inflation. Unfortunately, I have learned my Democratic colleagues were led to believe otherwise.

So what does the bill before us do with CBO’s assumption—an assumption that allows significant, historic investment in the title, of which has been intentionally ignored?

Republicans are providing additional financial resources across multiple programs that have successfully benefited tribal communities, seniors, and households pursuing healthier options.

Republicans are championing efforts for individuals to remain on their current career pathways without choosing between SNAP and employment or education.

Republicans are correcting a draconian, outdated policy option to now allow all individuals with past drug offenses to receive SNAP, aligning federal policy with the will of dozens of states across the nation.

Republicans are increasing resources available to the Nutrition Assistance Program block grant for Puerto Rico and encouraging both USDA and Puerto Rico to continue to formulate a financially and operationally viable pathway toward a transition from the block grant to SNAP.

And Republicans are holding USDA and the States who administer SNAP accountable to the American taxpayer.

In further efforts to disrupt the process, there has been talk about the movement of money across titles or the longstanding coalition of food and farm advocates. I assume it needs reminding of contemporary farm bills where farmers were stripped of billions in exchange for additional funds in nutrition, or where nutrition saw a 1 percent decrease in the deficit reduction exercise of 2014, yet farmers had to face an astonishing 25 percent cut. So, I have no shame transitioning available resources to the nearly unanimous, bipartisan priorities shared by each of you and incorporated in this bill, including trade promotion, research, and various specialty crop programs.

Each of the titles within this bill are supremely important to our rural communities. Providing access to credit, streamlining policies to provide connectivity to the many, improving precision agriculture, encouraging active forest management and enhancing forest health, creating access to energy system and efficiency updates, protecting plant health and specialty crop competitiveness, and protecting the livestock and poultry industry from catastrophic disease and the inside-the-beltway animal welfare activists,  are each worthy topics and policies that demand strong consideration as this markup unfolds.

I firmly believe the legislation before us today restores a robust rural economy, invests in America’s farmers, ranchers, and foresters, and bolsters every facet of American agriculture. And having seen the widespread support from stakeholders across this country, I believe we have achieved that goal.

As I said last week, a farm bill has long been an example of consensus, where both sides must take a step off the soapbox and have tough conversations. I do not draw redlines; I do not close the door to conversation. I could not have been clearer throughout this process that I was willing to work with each one of you to find a pathway forward on this bill. I have been here, I have been transparent, and I have been fighting for American agriculture.

Before I close, my appreciation to the staff on both sides of the aisle who have, for the most part, produced the bill text before you. Working in Washington is not easy, and you all have done a tremendous job of ignoring the noise and bringing to life the priorities of the Members you serve. Thank you.

With that, I yield to the distinguished Ranking Member, the gentleman from Georgia.