Farm bill almost ready but Conaway will hold off on introducing it
The House Agriculture Committee staff is close to done preparing a farm bill for consideration by the committee, but House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, will keep the bill “under lock and key” until the House leadership guarantees floor time for its consideration, an experienced agricultural lobbyist told The Hagstrom Report Oct. 30.
Conaway “is close to unveiling the bill but doesn’t want it hanging out there” because opposition to various provisions could build, the lobbyist said. That means Conaway is likely to hold off introducing the bill until early 2018.
The lobbyist said he was not privy to details of the bill but that Congress faces substantial financial challenges to come up with the money to pay for all the proposals that farm groups have put forward.
The lobbyist cited the cotton industry’s request for a new program, the dairy industry’s request for an improved margin protection program, the proposals for mandatory updating of base acreage and strengthening the county-level Agriculture Risk Coverage program, and the proposals to increase funding for foreign market development programs.
There are also proposals to double agricultural research spending.
The lobbyist had no information on the nutrition title of the bill and did not mention conservation.
“Everyone wants more resources,” the lobbyist said, “but these (proposals) have not been responded to favorably.”
According to a report, Conaway told the Red River Farm Network, “We’re going to have to make choices and some of those will be difficult. Some folks will be disappointed.”
Conaway said the “big four things we need to fix” are cotton, dairy, the ARC-County payment scheme and the Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine bank.
He also said it will be difficult to raise the cap on CRP acres.
“My partner-in-crime in these issues, (House Agriculture ranking member) Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has been calling for that, but I think there are resource constraints on new acres,” Conaway said.
Conaway told reporters he hopes to move the farm bill through the House in late 2017 or early 2018, according to the Red River Farm Network.
Peterson said “The big problem is we haven’t got any money,” according to the Food and Environmental Reporting Network’s Ag Insider on Monday.
But the lobbyist noted that the House and Senate committees had been “clever at coming up with savings” in writing the 2014 farm bill.
The Senate Agriculture Committee is not as far along in writing its bill, the lobbyist said.
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