MGP defends committee ‘no’ vote on Farm Bill as deadline nears


Third Congressional District Rep. Marie Gluesenkamp Perez, D-Washougal, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, defended her decision to vote against advancing the Farm Bill out of committee.

“Across Southwest Washington, it’s getting more difficult for small, family farms to be passed down through generations — and worsening extreme weather events are only making farmers’ jobs harder. Working families are also experiencing high grocery costs that stand in the way of putting healthy food on the table,” Gluesenkamp Perez said in a statement Friday morning. “Unfortunately, the Farm Bill proposed today would slash programs to ease these crises for farmers and families — so I voted against advancing it out of the House Ag Committee.”

The Farm Bill, which must be renewed every five years, is wide-ranging legislation that governs federal agricultural and food program policy, though Congress has struggled to renew the bill for more than a year. As negotiations stalled, members opted to pass a stopgap that extended the 2018 Farm Bill through Sept. 30 of this year.

Now, Congress is faced with rising costs and a lack of money to fully fund the current proposal. According to The Hill, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the House Agriculture Committee is trying to fund its proposal with “counterfeit money” while speaking to reporters on Wednesday. According to Vilsack, The House of Representatives “doesn’t have the resources, if they follow the rules, to be able to do everything that they’re doing.”

“You can’t rob Peter to pay Paul,” he told The Hill on Wednesday. Keeping with the religious tone, Gluesenkamp Perez closed her remarks before the House Agriculture Committee with 1 Corinthians 13. “If I speak with tongues of angels and men, if I understand all mysteries, if I understand all knowledge, if I have faith to move mountains, but I don’t have love, I am nothing,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “And I hope that that love is what guides us, that brings us to a better bipartisan Farm Bill.”

With four months until the extension expires, Gluesenkamp Perez said the current proposal before the House Agriculture Committee would “result in the largest cut to” the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in three decades and said she hopes to work with the Senate on a “bipartisan bill that reflects the best of what we can achieve.” “Rural communities like mine are more likely to enroll in the program than urban areas, and 23 percent of SNAP funding benefits rural communities,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “Additionally, nearly half of the households enrolled in SNAP include children. Policies that hurt family farmers hurt rural families.” Additionally, Gluesenkamp Perez said the bill would negatively impact federal programs that promote climate resilience while improving a farmer’s bottom line. The proposal, she said, would put “family farms at risk of climate-related challenges.”

“Demand for these resources is already dramatically outpacing what’s available, and this legislation would roll back support for climate-smart practices farmers rely on and are calling for,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. In testimony before the committee, Gluesenkamp Perez highlighted a guest commentary written by Maynard Mallonee that The Chronicle published Monday. Maynard, an organic dairy farmer in Curtis, manages 225 acres and about 60 cows.

In his commentary, Maynard wrote, “Climate-smart programs put farmers at an advantage of being able to help themselves, their farms, and the environment all in one package.”

“But this Farm Bill makes accessing these types of practices more challenging. I’ve sent letters outlining the priorities of my farmers and producers, introduced bipartisan marker bills, and met with Chairman (Rep. Glenn Thompson) many times to discuss this bill as it was being put together,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “And despite all of this, many of my constituents’ priorities have been left out, while vital programs have taken historic cuts. Generational farms and producers in my district need to be at the table — not on the menu.”

In February, Gluesenkamp Perez joined fellow Democratic Washington U.S. Reps. Kim Schrier and Marilyn Strickland, in introducing the Partnerships for Agricultural Climate Action Act of 2024. If passed, the program would replicate Washington’s Sustainable Farms and Fields program and incentivize voluntary conservation on farms of all sizes. According to Gluesenkamp Perez, the proposal is supported by the Northwest Dairy Association, Darigold, the Washington State Potato Commission, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, the Washington State Conservation Commission, the Washington State Farm Bureau, Carbon180 and Carbon Washington. “Nevertheless, priorities of our local growers have been left out while vital programs have taken historic cuts,” Gluesenkamp Perez said Friday. “Farmers are facing increasingly challenging growing conditions amid extreme heat and drought, and have asked me to support the USDA programs that help them improve climate resiliency and protect their bottom line. Demand for these resources is already dramatically outpacing what’s available — and this legislation would roll back support for climate-smart practices farmers rely on and are calling for.”