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GOP steps back from IRA fight

Illustration of a steer in a pile of money with money in it's mouth

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Republicans are quietly shying away from targeting IRA money in the farm bill.

Why it matters: Congress is barreling toward the end-of-month farm bill deadline. This could smooth the path and — for now — protect the nearly $20 billion Democrats pumped into climate-related ag programs in the IRA.

Driving the news: With battles over appropriations and impeachment echoing across the Capitol grounds, GOP negotiators in both chambers stressed to us they want bipartisan agreement on their versions of the farm bill.

  • Moving those funds is "really not" a sticking point right now, Senate Ag ranking member John Boozman told Axios.
  • "There's all kinds of people who would like to do this or that," he said. But "I don't think there's any Democrats that are willing to use those dollars for anything else."

Then, Tuesday night, House Ag Chair Glenn Thompson told reporters he'd like to see IRA funds used differently, but doesn't "think it's a sticking point" in getting a farm bill done.

  • Thompson repeatedly emphasized he wants "bipartisan support in the committee to repurpose" the funds: "We'll see whether there is or not."
  • A House Ag spokesman declined to comment further on Republicans' plans.

Catch up quick: The IRA authorized $19.5 billion to farm conservation programs in a bid to promote "climate-smart agriculture" practices.

  • House Republicans previously said they were eyeing some of that money to help raise commodity reference prices so programs like crop insurance align with inflation.

Reality check: There's a "real commitment" in the Democratic caucus to protect the money as it's authorized, said Tina Smith, a Senate Ag Democrat who helped lead the push for the money.

  • "To the extent somebody might want to increase reference prices and do that by taking some of the money from climate-smart agriculture, we just won't support that," she told Axios.

Yes, but: We don't yet know if the hardliners who've derailed funding talks and other program reauthorizations could target the IRA, which was a conflict in the debt limit fight.

  • Plus, Boozman said it's a "red line" for him to make sure farmers don't have to meet climate-friendly standards to take advantage of USDA conservation programs.

What's next: They're not getting the farm bill done by Sept. 30, and pretty much everyone is eyeing December as the true deadline now.

  • Don't hold your breath on bill text, either: Thompson said he's waiting for the continuing resolution drama to subside before releasing his bill.
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