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Senators See Tough Road Ahead on Farm Bill

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Johanns-Johnson on farm bill

House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas has said everyone will have to work outside of the box and come together to complete a farm bill. U.S. Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska agrees a more unified bill is necessary.

“They passed the commodity title, they passed pieces of the farm bill, but of course we all know a major piece of the farm bill is and has been the nutrition piece. There’s a desire to take more money out of food stamps, the SNAP program and we hear discussion that will be in the vicinity of $40 billion. I don’t know if that means that they’ll then have the votes to pass the farm bill. I’m guessing it will take all Republican votes and doubt that former speaker Pelosi is going to turn her people loose on those kind of cuts, so whether or not they’ve got enough Republicans to pass this, we’ll see.”

If the House could pass something on nutrition this week Johanns says there would still be time to appoint conferees, get the bill to conference and see what the conferees could come up with before September 30th.

“It’s not as good situation to miss that September 20th deadline. In a perfect world we would get a farm bill by September 30th but if you’ve got conferees working and there’s optimism that they can get from point A to point B and get a bill done, there’s some flexibility in that September 30th date.”

There isn’t much time to deal with a bill of this complexity, but Johanns says it can be done.

South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson isn’t optimistic that Congress will get a farm bill passed by the deadline and he also blames the separation of the nutrition title from the farm bill.

“This House action is a huge departure from the traditional urban-rural alliance that the farm bill has had in the past. Senator Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Ag Committee has said they we won’t pass a farm bill that doesn’t include SNAP.”

He added both Stabenow and Senate majority leader Harry Reid oppose an extension.