Farm Bill progress is being made, but only on one side of Capitol Hill. The House has started work, but sharp differences over the nutrition title have the process mired in political name calling. In the Senate, ag leadership says they are on track. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, a member of the Senate Ag Committee, has been saying for months that the work on the new Farm Bill has been going on behind closed doors. Now that work may have paid off in quick action by the Senate.
Senate Ag Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says the Senate could pass a bill by the end of April, “We are on track and could have a bill passed by the end of April. I think the committee can put a bill together in one morning, we did last time; and, if I can convince leadership to give us 3 days of floor time, we can have it passed by the end of April.”
But the Senate Bill is going to have an approach quite a bit different than the House version, especially on the subject of SNAP. This means long conference committee negotiations. Roberts urged House leadership to be bipartisan, “We have to have 60 votes in the Senate. This has to be a bipartisan bill.” Roberts added that he and ranking member Debbie Stabenow have experience in putting together a bipartisan Farm Bill, “This is not our first rodeo.”
Most of the talk this past week on the Farm Bill was in the House, as differences arose between what House Ag Committee republicans would like to see in the Farm Bill and the frustration from House democrats on the Ag Committee on some of those issues. The House Ag Democrats have the most issues with the SNAP reform proposals that House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway would like to see in the House version of the bill.
House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway and ranking member Collin Peterson kicked off the two-week Congressional recess by taking jabs at one another over why farm bill talks are at a standstill over proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Meanwhile, Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, former chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told POLITICO on Monday that unless there are “real” reforms to reduce the number of SNAP recipients — beyond what Conaway is reportedly considering — the farm bill should just be temporarily reauthorized.
HAT’s Eric Pfeiffer is scheduled to talk with Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly this week. Watch for that interview on HAT.