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Farm Bill Conference Committee Gets to Work

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Farm Bill conference meets

Farm Bill logoIn the first 2013 farm bill conference committee meeting Wednesday, there was a very positive feel among the conferees, happy to finally be at the conference table and ready to reach compromise and ultimately a bill. Ranking Member of the House Agriculture Committee is Democrat Collin Peterson from Minnesota.

“I think that we’ve got a good group of conferees and I know that everybody is committed to finishing the job,” he said. “We’ve been working on this bill for so long that I think we’re actually at the point where most of the staff work has been done, and really it’s time for the members now to start making the compromises necessary to put this bill together so it can be defended and clearly explained to our colleagues and the general public.”

Republican Frank Lucas from Oklahoma is the Chairman of the House Ag Committee. He asked his fellow conferees to get a passable bill ironed out and quicker than the process has been to date.

“It took us years to get here, but we are here. It may takes days and weeks perhaps to finish crafting what we’ll call the 2013 farm bill in popular discussion at the coffee shops, but we can do it. We have to do it. We have a responsibility to do it. With that I simply say to my colleagues, let’s not take years to get it done.”

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, SNAP, or food stamps will present challenges for the conferees. Both the Senate and House bills provide for cuts in the program, but over 10 years there is a $35 billion difference between the two. But Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, the Senate Ag Committee chair says there is some common ground in the two bills.

“Our bill represents the biggest reforms to agriculture policy in decades. Along with the House it ends direct payments. We tightened payment limits, modernized dairy policy, stopped people who aren’t actively engaged in farming from getting taxpayer subsidies, and the Senate agrees with the House that our focus should be on reforming and strengthening crop insurance. We’ve heard from the beginning that risk management was the key priority for our farmers and our ranchers all across the country.”

Still there will need to be a lot of negotiating on issues like SNAP cuts and Country of Origin Labeling, among others.

The Senate conferees include:

Democrats:

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA)

Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT)

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH)

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Republicans:

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS)

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR)

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND)

The House conferees include:

Republicans:

House Committee on Agriculture conferees:

Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-OK), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee

Rep. Steve King (R-IA)

Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-TX)

Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL)

Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-TX)

Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-PA)

Rep. Austin Scott (R-GA)

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR)

Rep. Martha Roby (R-AL)

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD)

Rep. Jeff Denham (R-CA)

Rep. Rodney Davis (R-IL)

Leadership conferee:

Rep. Steve Southerland (R-FL)

House Foreign Affairs Committee conferees:

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman

Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA)

House Ways & Means Committee conferees:

Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), Chairman

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)

Democrats:

House Committee on Agriculture conferees:

Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Ranking Member of House Agriculture Committee

Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)

Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)

Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN)

Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR)

Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA)

Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-WA)

Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-CA)

Rep. Filemon Vela (D-TX)

Leadership conferee:

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH)

House Foreign Affairs Committee conferee:

Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Ranking Member

House Ways & Means Committee conferee:

Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), Ranking Member