By Erik Wasson
Farm bill leaders report progress on deal
The principal House negotiators on the farm bill on Wednesday said there is progress toward a deal.
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) suggested the framework for an agreement could be finished next week.
“It will probably be next week … far be it for me to set deadlines,” he said.
Peterson said good work is being done on the farm bill’s energy title and controversial nutrition title that is the focus of a dispute over food stamp cuts.
He said so far the leaders of the farm bill conference, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), and Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), the chairwoman and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee — have been left alone by party leaders.
“I’m not sure they are in the loop,” he said. “We’re coming to agreement on different things.”
Lucas said the discussions are “focused intensely” on the title containing commodity subsidies.
“I think actually people are moving in the right direction toward progress,” Lucas said.
He said, however, that no sections of the farm bill have been completely finalized and would not predict that a framework could be done by next week.
Conferee Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), a lead negotiator on food stamps, said a she was hopeful that “starting place” on food stamp cuts would be coming in the next few days.
The Senate farm bill cuts the program by $4 billion on top of $11 billion in cuts that went into effect this month. The House bill has $39 billion in additional cuts.
The House also only authorizes the food stamp program for three years, while authorizing farm subsidies for five.
“That is absolutely not something I can support,” she said. Fudge predicted that House Republicans would back down on that provision.
Her prediction seemed to be confirmed by panelist Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who has long sought to cut food stamps.
“I didn’t support the idea of splitting them, that’s well-known. I do support the idea of getting a farm bill passed and to the president’s desk,” King said.
King said he is still fighting for his amendment to stop states from banning imports of farm products based on how they are produced, a measure aimed at California egg regulations. He said his amendment has not yet been focused on by the top four conference leaders.
He also said a delay related to official budget scores has been slowing the farm bill deal.