New Speaker of the House and Agriculture

October 26, 2023

Who is Speaker Mike Johnson and how will his leadership impact agricultural priorities in Congress? That is a question many Americans are asking.

For agriculture groups in Washington D.C. like the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), having a new Speaker of the House in place means Congress can get back to work.

“There was a time there for a few weeks where I think there was a feeling throughout Republican politics in Washington that there was no candidate that the house Republican conference could coalesce behind as their new leader,” said Ethan Lane, Vice President of Government Affairs for NCBA.

With the emergence of Rep. Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House, NCBA said he is a familiar face to agriculture.

"Those of us that have worked with Speaker Johnson over the years, we've had a long-standing relationship with him at NCBA, know he's a principled conservative,” said Lane. “He sees the world very much like our producers around the country do. He believes in limited government. He believes in free markets. He believes in traditional rural community values and perspectives. He's going to be somebody that I think is going to be very easy for the cattle industry to work with.”

Lane said the priority for Speaker Johnson will be passing Fiscal Year 2024 spending packages.

“Obviously, the main priority is that fiscal deadline that is looming the week before Thanksgiving here in Washington,” Lane stated. “That is going to be the focus for new Speaker Johnson and his team for the next few weeks. They are already at work on Capitol Hill processing some of those appropriations bills and getting that process moving. But inevitably that is going to mean a conference with the Senate and some sort of a combined bill at some point. We're hearing that could be a shorter-term extension into maybe January or April to buy a little more time to work out a larger deal. It's early in the process to see if that's the case or not. But that seems reasonable to me.”

Before taking the Speakers Gavel, Johnson committed to House Republicans his support in moving a Farm Bill forward.

“As far as the Farm Bill, we know there were extensive discussions in those House conference meetings where they did candidate forums and had sort of endless discussion with prospective Speaker candidates about their intentions in this space,” explained Lane. “Farm state republicans did a really good job in those meetings, as I understand it, pushing those speaker candidates to commit to moving a farm bill. To commit to that process on behalf of cattle producers and agricultural producers across the country. Speaker Johnson, as I understand it, did make that commitment that he's going to move that bill. He has been a guy that has been in favor of Farm Bills in the past. We don't anticipate him being a roadblock there. He's a constructive guy. He's going to be faced with the same reality as everyone else has been in this Farm Bill conversation.”

The 2018 Farm Bill Expired at the end of September and the hope to see a new bill passed in 2023 was quickly extinguished with the historic events that have played out over the past three weeks.

“Here we are almost to November, a month passed the expiration of the current Farm Bill. We don't have text yet on either side of the Hill to discuss publicly. There's a lot of work left to be done. It is highly unlikely there's going to be a bill done by the end of this year.”

Lane said an extension of the expired Farm Bill is likely.

“That's what we're hearing from ag committee leadership,” said Lane. We are past the deadline where you're going to start to see the real impact to commodities from that expired Farm Bill. That means that whatever kind of funding mechanism comes together here in the next few weeks, probably needs to include an extension of that farm bill that's long enough to give everybody a little bit of space to work on the next Farm Bill and get it done.”

It is expected that the House will start work on the new Farm Bill in December, but the process will take anywhere from 12 to 18 months. 

Source: Western Ag Network