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House Delivers Farm Bill to Senate

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Farm Bill compromise concerns

Senator Chuck GrassleyIt’s been confirmed that the House sent its farm-only farm bill to the Senate. Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow and Ranking Member Thad Cochran have started the process of sending the Senate farm bill back to the House so conference can begin. Stabenow has asked Senators to approach Cochran or herself with concerns. She said this is an opportunity to move forward and put together a bill that affects 16-million people in the U.S. that work in agriculture and everyone who counts on the work of farmers to provide the healthiest, most affordable food system in the world.

Citing a House Republican source Monday, The Hagstrom Report reported the Senate would need to take the House-passed measure, insert the Senate farm bill by unanimous consent, and request conference with the House.

The House transmitted its version of the farm bill to the Senate this week despite charges a temporary hold-up was intentional. Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s office said Tuesday the House Clerk planned to transmit the House-passed farm-only farm bill to the Senate Tuesday and the Senate Ag Committee confirmed later in the day it was sent. Transmittal doesn’t guarantee but allows the two chambers to appoint negotiators and seems to contradict Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow’s claim Monday the House GOP was stalling until the House passes a separate nutrition bill, though that could still slow the start of talks.

Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley argues a compromise House-Senate bill is now looking more unlikely before Congress breaks for its August recess.

“I think that the best we can do in the next couple of weeks is to get the bill to conference. I don’t think that there’s any way that you can have a bill out of conference for final decision before August 2nd when we break for summer break. But if we get to conference before then there will be plenty of time to get a bill done before September 30th.”

That is the end of the fiscal year when a current one-year extension expires, and Grassley says negotiators may need plenty of time to overcome potential deal breakers.

“For a bill to get through the Senate you gotta have a nutrition title in it and that nutrition title has to satisfy the House, save more money than what we did in the Senate, but probably the House would have to accept that it isn’t going to be $20 billion. Now if you put that together will you get a majority to pass the bill? I don’t know.”

The House bill eliminates 1938 and 1949 permanent farm law, used as a cudgel for decades to renew expiring five-year bills and instead makes permanent only some farm bill programs, leaving little incentive to renew others.

Senator Claire McCaskillSenator Claire McCaskill of Missouri is hopeful a compromise can be reached between the two versions of the farm bill but it must include making sure the nutrition title stays in the bill.

“We’re not going to end the food stamp program in this country. Keep in mind the Senate version tightened the food stamp program. It closed a loophole that was allowing states to be way too generous in terms of who was eligible for foods stamps. It saved $4 billion of food stamp money in the bill. It’s not that the Senate wasn’t willing to reform the food stamp program. It was and I’m somebody who stand four square for that, but this notion that we’re going to write checks for farmers from the federal government but we can’t help parents feed hungry children. That seems bizarre to me.”

Source: NAFB News Service