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Vermont food, ag programs set to continue as-is with expected 1-year extension of federal farm bill

Two men stand on either side of a blueberry bush and inspect it
Lisa Rathke
Associated Press File
U.S. Sen. Peter Welch, left, and farmer Paul Mazza inspect blueberry bushes damaged and contaminated by severe flooding at one of Mazza's farms in Essex Junction on Monday, July 24, 2023.

Congress is set to pass a one-year extension of the 2018 Farm Bill, which guides agriculture policy across the U.S.

Food security advocates in Vermont say that's both good and bad news for the growing number of Vermonters who rely on federal food assistance programs.

Usually, the farm bill is renewed every five years. But lawmakers couldn't agree on a number of key provisions in a new plan. So they settled on extending current funding levels.

More from Vermont Edition: The 2023 Farm Bill is held up in Congress. Here's how that could impact Vermonters

Hunger Free Vermont Executive Director Anore Horton says the extension ensures important federal food assistance programs will continue for another 12 months.

"There's a lot that we can feel relieved about in having a one year extension of the farm bill that doesn't change any of the current policy or funding levels," Horton says.

But — Horton says she's disappointed the extension also means lawmakers won't consider expanding federal food programs for another year.

"But none of them can move forward unless and until Congress actually takes up the farm bill and does its job," she says. "So in that way, I'm disappointed that there's a one-year extension."

"There's a lot that we can feel relieved about in having a one-year extension of the farm bill that doesn't change any of the current policy or funding levels."
Anore Horton, Hunger Free Vermont

Senator Peter Welch is a member of the Senate Agriculture committee.

"It's very good news in that there's stability for a year and all of the programs are maintained at current levels," Welch says. "And had the farm bill expired because we weren't able to pass a new one, it would have turned — there would have been huge upheaval for Vermont agriculture."

More from NPR: Congress on track to avoid a shutdown as House passes two-tier spending bill

The extension of the 2018 Farm Bill is part of the short-term budget plan to keep the federal government open for the next few months.

The U.S. House Tuesday approved a bipartisan bill to avoid a shutdown of the federal government this coming weekend.

Vermont U.S. Rep. Becca Balint voted for the bill, which was brought forth by new Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson.

The measure maintains current spending levels until the middle of January, but it does not include any additional aid for Israel or Ukraine.

Balint says she voted for the bill because it does not include budget cuts that conservative Republicans were pushing for.

"Making it really clear that we would not support any short-term spending bill that would lead to extreme cuts, and we're talking about deep, deep cuts, 30% across the board — that's just not sustainable, it's not fiscally responsible," Balint says.

The measure now goes to the Senate, where Democratic leaders expect it will pass.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message.

Bob Kinzel has been covering the Vermont Statehouse since 1981 — longer than any continuously serving member of the Legislature. With his wealth of institutional knowledge, he answers your questions on our series, "Ask Bob."
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