Senate requests conference committee on farm bill with the House

Stabenow said she was confident that the Senate and House could come up with a bipartisan compromise, although the bills have vast differences.

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This week, the House sent its version of the farm bill over to the Senate. But some Democratic senators were hesitant to go to conference with the House version because the House separated out funding for food assistance programs in order to get enough GOP support to pass it.

Earlier Thursday, Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) urged colleagues to support a conference committee and pointed out that that current farm bill expires in September.

“I urge my colleague to join with me now to form a conference committee with the House on the farm bill,” Hoeven said. “We need to get going. We need to get this done.”

The Senate passed a bipartisan farm bill earlier this year that reduces spending by $24 billion. The House tried to pass a comprehensive farm bill shortly after that, which would have cut more than $30 billion — $20 billion of which came from food stamp reductions. Democrats in the House wouldn’t support such a large cut to food stamps, and some conservative Republicans still demanded more cuts, so the first House bill failed.

House Republicans tried a second time last week, and passed a farm bill that removed food assistance from the bill entirely. In the past, the majority of farm bill funding has been for the food supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.

Republicans heralded the separation of food assistance from farm subsidies as a major conservative victory, while Democrats say it threatens support for low-income and struggling families during this time of high unemployment.