Negotiators “are nearing agreement on many of the issues” in the farm bill, said Senate Agriculture chairman Pat Roberts on Tuesday, although one committee member said he doubted there will be an agreement this year.
Two days after farm bill negotiators declared unity in working together on the 2018 farm bill, the House author of the most controversial proposal on the table — stricter work requirements for food stamp recipients — attacked Senate negotiators as weak-willed.
The Senate farm bill will clamp down on payments to so-called managers who live in town and exercise little control over farm operations, announced the leaders of the Agriculture Committee on Wednesday. Still to be resolved was a proposal to make the wealthiest farmers pay more for federally subsidized crop insurance.
Thanks to speedy action by the Agriculture Committee, the Senate is on track to pass its five-year farm bill before the end of June, boosting the chances that the Republican-controlled Congress will enact the major legislation before election-year tensions stymie work later this year.
In the last farm bill, conservative Republicans demanded the biggest cuts in food stamps in a generation, leading the House to defeat the bill in June 2013. It then took Congress more than six months to put the pieces together. The same outcome is possible now after a revolt by Republican conservatives defeated a new farm bill calling for stricter work requirements for food stamp recipients and looser payment limit rules for farmers. But this time the delay may stretch into the new year.
After Democrats spent three hours criticizing House Agriculture Committee chairman Michael Conaway’s plan to overhaul SNAP, the committee approved its draft of the farm bill on a party-line vote.
There is little bite in the weak limits the government imposes on farm subsidy payments, and now reformers say the limits will become toothless under provisions in the Republican-drawn farm bill in the House.
The leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee have ruled out major changes in the food stamp program, effectively rejecting big cuts to the program before House Agriculture chairman Michael Conaway can write them into his committee’s version of the farm bill. (No paywall)
The Senate Agriculture Committee will draft its version of the 2018 farm bill in April if chairman Pat Roberts’ plans hold up. Roberts discussed the timeline for the bill, but not its contents, at a child nutrition luncheon.