By Brooke S. Appleton
The House of Representatives has a new speaker, a development with potentially large implications for growers and advocates who have been eager for Congress to reauthorize the farm bill, particularly after the law expired in late September.
Thankfully, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) has some history of being supportive of the agricultural community. His home district, in fact, has nearly 45,000 acres of corn.
Indeed, Speaker Johnson has historically aligned himself with several of the causes of corn growers and other farmers. He voted for the 2018 farm bill, and during the House process he voted against amendments that would cut crop insurance; repeal USDA biofuel and energy subsidy programs; and reform the sugar program. He also voted for an amendment to repeal burdensome regulations on the definition of navigable waters.
And as we celebrate a decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce to lower duties placed on phosphate fertilizers imported from Morocco from 19.7% to 2.12%, it is important to remember that as a rank-and-file member of Congress, Speaker Johnson signed onto a letter to the agency advocating against the tariffs.
While having a speaker in place makes a comprehensive reauthorization of the farm bill far more promising, I don’t want to paint an overly rosy picture of all that is ahead. The new speaker has his work cut out for him. He has taken over a balkanized caucus that has been, as one member put it, duct taped together. He will have to carefully navigate the intra-party fault lines while ensuring every member of his caucus feels like they are being heard. The House Republican majority still stands at a razor thin margin and the Senate is still in Democratic control.
And as if his job weren’t hard enough, he is currently operating under House rules that allow for a sole member of the House to vacate the speakership, a rule that led to the downfall of his predecessor Speaker Emeritus Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).
In this environment, corn growers and our allies can be cautiously optimistic about the new speaker while continuing to do our due diligence with the various factions within the Republican Party as well as members of the Democratic Party. We need to share the benefits of the farm bill and how those benefits align with a cross-section of values and philosophies.
Earlier this summer, we launched a digital campaign that featured a series of videos in which growers talk about their farm bill priorities and how they are important to rural communities and the national economy. The videos, which addressed many of the priorities of key policymakers, were digitally targeted to a Capitol Hill audience.
Of course, this work builds upon one-on-one meetings between policymakers and corn grower leaders and advocates. We continue to work with our friends in Congress while simultaneously building relationships with new policymakers. That’s because, when policymakers truly understand the contributions of growers and put faces to the requests, it is easy for them to get behind the farm bill.
As the calendar year winds down, we all need to continue to make our voices heard. To keep track of our priorities and advocacy efforts, you can sign up for our action alerts by texting COB to 52886.
Here’s to being flexible in the face of change. Here’s to passing a comprehensive, bipartisan farm bill as soon as possible.
Appleton is vice president of public policy at the National Corn Growers Association.