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Sugarcane haulers travel, Wednesday, November 1, 2023, in West Baton Rouge, La.

Every five years, Congress takes up the sprawling farm bill, a laden piece of legislation that impacts millions of Americans nationwide and has broad ramifications for agricultural and other policy.?

The most recent iteration passed in 2018 and expired on Oct. 1, 2023. Congress extended it through September 2024, but has not enacted a long-term renewal. A $1.5 trillion version has cleared the House Agriculture Committee but has yet to be scheduled for a vote on the House floor, and the Senate version remains in committee. Once the two houses pass the bills, they will have to come together to hammer out a compromise proposal before sending it to President Joe Biden to sign.?

Many Louisianans are anxiously awaiting congressional action.?

The state's more than 400 sugar farmers are at the top of the list. Since 1981, the bill has provided a number of supports to Louisiana's two-century-old sugar industry through subsidies, price-floors and loans that protect local farmers from inexpensive imported sugar. This assistance doesn't come cheap: The policy costs American taxpayers about $3.5 billion every year, which equates to about $40 per family of four.?

Other countries produce sugar and sell it on the international market for less than what it costs to produce in Louisiana. For this reason, the candy industry and other manufacturers often lobby Congress to relax import limits. Last time the farm bill was debated, sugar policy was the main sticking point.?

Not this year. The sugar provisions outlined by the House Committee, revised from the existing policy, have earned the blessing of both manufacturers and sugar producers.

This time, the hang-up is on another signature farm bill provision?— food assistance. Though it occupies a only a handful of pages in the nearly 1,000-page bill, about 41 million Americans rely on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, including about 801,000 people in Louisiana. That's almost 1 in 5 residents of our state, many of them children.

Nationwide, the program cost about $119 billion in 2022, according to the Pew Research Center.

Some in the Republican Party have argued for deep cuts to the food assistance program or work requirements for recipients. They also urge Congress to allocate set amounts to the states, which would then decide who receives help and for how long. For Democrats, these conditions are unacceptable.?

We cheered when the Legislature reversed a decision by Gov. Jeff Landry not to fund a summer food program for students that drew largely on federal funds. Now, we urge Congress?— and especially Speaker Mike Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, both of Louisiana?— to act quickly and bring a farm bill renewal before the House and get it passed.

It's time to ensure that both Louisiana's farmers and its poor residents get what they need.?