HUTCHINSON, Kan. — Kansas First District Congressman Tracey Mann said at the Kansas State Fair over the weekend, even though the federal fiscal year ends at the end of the month, the Farm Bill is not done.
"I'm frustrated with how slowly it's going," Mann said. "That said, I think we are making progress. I think the committee's done a good job listening to producers. We're working our tail off to make sure that this is a Farm Bill that works for our Kansas ag producers, which is the most important thing."
U.S. Senator Dr. Roger Marshall used an analogy from his days in obstetric practice.
"This is my second farm bill," Marshall said. "I know a little bit more about obstetrics than I do a farm bill, as a matter of fact, I saw two kids I delivered over in the sheep showing program, as well. If the farm bill was a pregnant mom, I'd say, we're a week overdue and it's time to induce her."
Marshall would rather see the farm bill finished than just an extension, but an extension is what appears most likely at this point in the process.
"As agriculture goes, so goes Kansas," Marshall said. "What a farm bill does is give us a great amount of certainty. It allows our producers to make a five year plan, rather than a one year plan. When you're an ag lender, it helps you understand, are we going to be able to make this payment year three, year four, year five, as well. I think that's the struggle before us. I think the biggest impediment to getting a farm bill done is our $33 trillion national debt. This country is spending $700 billion on interest."
The other problem is that in an inflationary economy, more people in poverty need to use the food programs that are actually now the majority of the funds disbursed within a farm bill and the underlying food costs more.
"In 2018, we budgeted, we'd be spending $65 billion for food stamps, for the nutrition programs, $65 billion. The last two years, we're spending $180 billion a year, almost triple. We could dive down to why that's happening, but nevertheless, we've went from $65 billion to $180 billion and as we look at a budget for this farm bill, they are saying it's going to go down to $120 billion. It's hard for me, as a former business owner, to square all that."
It's likely that full language for the farm bill won't even be finalized to be hashed over until at least November.