Senate comes back with no clear farm bill confab, conferee plan | TheFencePost.com

Senate comes back with no clear farm bill confab, conferee plan

-The Hagstrom Report

In remarks as the Senate came into session today, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said that this week the Senate will vote on a "minibus" of appropriations bills that includes the fiscal year 2019 Agriculture appropriations bill and on a measure to go to conference with the House on the farm bill.

The Senate is expected to vote this week on a "minibus" of appropriations bills that includes the fiscal year 2019 Agriculture appropriations bill and on a measure to go to conference with the House on the farm bill.

But Politico reported today that the vote on the farm bill conference is held up by three issues: no vote on a bill sponsored by Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., to ease regulations on service hours for agricultural truckers; an attempt by Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., to revive his failed amendment to require Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program beneficiaries to show identification when using electronic benefit transfer cards; and lack of agreement on the number of conferees.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., has proposed naming nine senators — five Republicans and four Democrats — to the conference committee, chosen by seniority, Politico said.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said last week that he fears the plan would keep him and Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., off the committee. Grassley has proposed stricter payment limits for farm subsidy recipients while the House bill makes it easier to get payments, and Thune is a vigorous advocate on conservation measures.

Last week, Grassley told rural reporters, "There's some talk about having five Republicans. That would leave me and Thune off. And I kinda wonder what's up. Thune and I have a few differences of opinion than Roberts does about the farm bill and would it be an effort on his part to exclude people who don't 100 percent agree with him? I would hope not. I would hope for his cooperation to include me and Thune."

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The 2013 farm bill conference had 12 senators.The House has appointed 47 conferees for this year's negotiations.

The Red River Farm Network based in Grand Forks, N.D., reported today that Thune said, whether he is put on the farm bill conference committee or not, he wants to get an increase in Conservation Reserve Program acres.

"It's a matter of making sure that we protect those provisions that we think are really important to agriculture in the Midwest," Thune said.

"I'm glad that we are where we are. I think we have a strong bill, Now we just have to defend that in conference. I'll be doing everything I can in that process to make sure that happens."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said farm bill negotiations could happen over the phone in the next month, RRFN added.

"We would just like to get it done," Klobuchar said. "Sometimes with the conference committees you get an agreement on the issues and really, we are closer than we're apart. I think a lot of attention has been drawn to the differences on the nutrition programs."

Klobuchar hinted she may not serve on the farm bill conference committee, RRFN said.