House votes to meet with Senate on farm bill

Moments later, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) waived the 30 minutes of debate time he was given, and ranking committee member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) waived his time as well. With that, the House quickly approved the motion by voice vote — House conferees could be named later today.

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The rule debate allowed Democrats to revisit their deep opposition to a House-passed bill that would cut the federal food stamp program by $39 billion over 10 years. The House passed that bill in September, separately from the farm commodity bill that passed in July.

The level of cuts to the food stamp program will likely be a subject of contention during the conference, as the Senate's comprehensive bill cuts just $4 billion from the program over 10 years. Democrats have cited estimates saying nearly 4 million people would be kicked off of the food stamp program in 2014.

Democrats also had problems with the rule, as it specifically made in order two Republican motions to instruct conferees. Peterson said this provision was "unprecedented," in part because the two GOP motions will essentially ask the House to consider positions it has already rejected.

One of the resolutions, from Rep. Joseph Pitts (R-Pa.), would require House negotiators to seek language that eliminates import limits on sugar, which supporters say would make it easier to manage sugar supplies in the U.S. and ensure reasonable prices.

The other is from Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), and it would put limits on crop insurance subsidies to people with adjusted incomes of less than $750,000 per year. After debating that proposal for an hour, the House approved Ryan's resolution in a voice vote.

Finally, Peterson said he opposes plans by House Republicans to name at least one GOP member to the conference who is not a member of the House Agriculture Committee.

Republicans defended the resolutions as language that would help reduce costs and bring free-market principles to the sugar market. They also defended both the nutrition and the commodity bills that have passed in the House.

Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said the bill would end direct payments to farmers, and make sure that farm payments are made only to people who farm. She said it also eases regulatory burdens for farmers in the area of pesticides.

Another major issue conferees will face is whether to synchronize the authorization periods for the commodity title, which outlines subsidy programs to wheat, soy and other crops, and the nutrition title, which contains the food stamp language. Under the House bills, the commodity title would be reauthorized for five years, and the food stamp language lasts for just three years.

That would appear to permanently split these two items, something Democrats have opposed.

Immediately after the motion to conference was voice-voted, the House started debating a Democratic motion to instruct conferees to synchronize the timelines of both parts of the final bill. If a roll call vote is needed on this language or the proposals from Pitts and Ryan, they are expected to be held on Saturday.

— This story was updated at 4:24 p.m. to reflect the voice vote, and again at 7:02 p.m. to reflect the vote on Ryan's resolution.