NCFC President and CEO Chuck Conner on Priorities for the 2023 Farm Bill
With the current farm bill set to expire in less than six months, many in the ag industry are now heavily focused on the priorities for the next farm bill.
“We just need a good farm bill to carry us through these volatile times acknowledging that that may not be today, but it could well be tomorrow,” says Chuck Conner, President and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC).
Conner had previously served as both Acting Secretary and Deputy Secretary of the USDA during the administration of President George W. Bush.
He says one challenge facing the 2023 Farm Bill is the partisan atmosphere among those currently serving in Washington—especially considering the likely debate that is forthcoming over the debt ceiling.
“You know, these are challenging times in American politics,” says Conner. “We have a Congress that is divided in a partisan way like I have never seen in my long career. They have a very difficult time doing the normal business that Congress should be doing on behalf of the people because of the controversy that is out there. But having said that, I do think we’re going to get the Farm Bill done—maybe not exactly on time, but certainly, in what I would consider to be a relatively timely way.”
One split among lawmakers is the push from Democrats to expand funding for nutrition and welfare programs like SNAP. However, Conner says the next farm bill still needs a stronger safety net in place for farmers.
“Crop insurance is the number one risk management tool that we make available to farmers in the farm bill, so it’s just fundamental to the business structure out there,” according to Conner. “We believe that we have support out there to maintain a strong crop insurance program—perhaps, even make it better than the current one.”
Conner adds that he and the NCFC are pushing for more funding for crop commodity programs.
“One of our priorities is to make sure that Title One of that bill, which is really the assistance for farmers, needs to be as strong a title as we possibly can,” says Conner. “We know that we’re in a cyclical business. Great times today probably ensure leaner times tomorrow. We just need a good farm bill and need a good Title One that can sustain farmers through those tougher times—whether that’s through farm commodity programs, conservation programs, and crop insurance.”
The current farm bill, which was budgeted at $867 million, is set to expire on Sept. 30, 2023. Budget projections for the next farm bill are $1.5 billion.