Farm bill full of conflict as congress heads into recess
March 23, 2018
The situation regarding a new farm bill appeared to be full of conflict late this week as Congress heads home for a two-week spring recess.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, had a goal of marking up the bill in the first quarter of 2018, which for all practical purposes ends today because Congress will leave town.
But Democrats have objected so strongly to Conaway's food stamp proposal that negotiations have stopped, and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has said he does not see how they can start again. Conaway's plan for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program would make it harder to get benefits and use the money saved for job training programs.
Peterson told reporters "The farm bill is on life support," Teaganne Finn of Bloomberg BNA tweeted Thursday.
Peterson also said he had consulted with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and that Roberts said the Senate version of the bill will increase SNAP benefits, Finn also tweeted.
In a separate story, Bloomberg reported that Conaway said he will move forward with his bill and try to get approval on the House floor with only Republican votes.
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"They have no interest in negotiation, we'll have to move forward," Conaway said, according to the Bloomberg account. "My responsibility now is to get this through the House."
One provision pushed for by the White House — a so-called "Harvest Box" plan to replace some SNAP funding with surplus U.S. farm goods — will not be in the House bill, Bloomberg reported.
Meanwhile, Senate ag leaders are moving forward with their bill, DTN/The Progressive Farmer reported.
Roberts said at a conference sponsored by Agri-Pulse that senators are waiting on the Congressional Budget Office baseline for USDA programs, expected to be released April 9, DTN said. Roberts anticipates his committee could consider a markup shortly after, DTN added.
"It's clear times are challenging in farm country, no matter what you grow, how you grow it," Roberts said. "We are in a rough patch and in a time like this we are not looking to make revolutionary changes. We need to provide certainty and predictability to farmers, ranchers and producers all across the country."
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told the same conference that she is ready to move forward in drafting a new bill, DTN also reported.
"I think we're in a good spot going into the farm bill negotiations," Stabenow said.