By Mike Lillis - 10/29/13 06:01 PM EDT
The top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee is pushing back hard against the notion of wrapping farm policy into the broad budget conference set to launch this week.
A bipartisan group will begin negotiations Wednesday to iron out the differences between the House and Senate 2014 budget proposals, with some observers suggesting that elements of the idled farm bill will be thrown into the mix.
But Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), ranking member of the Agriculture panel, thinks that strategy would be a disaster for farm country.
"I am absolutely opposed to that," Peterson told reporters in the Capitol.
Asked to expound, Peterson suggested some of the Republican negotiators – notably Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) – would gut the proposal.
House Republicans last month passed a bill to cut food stamp funding by almost $40 billion over 10 years – a sharp contrast to the $4 billion cut in the Senate-passed bill the Democrats are championing.
"Do you think we're going to let them write the farm bill? What do you think Paul Ryan would end up doing if he was writing the farm bill?," Peterson asked.
"I don't think it would be anything that Jim and I could support," he added, referring to Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.), another senior member of the Agriculture Committee.
In June, the Senate passed a five-year reauthorization bill with a bipartisan vote of 66-27. But House GOP leaders declined to consider it, largely because House conservatives rejected the food stamp cuts as too small.
Instead, House Republicans cleaved their proposal into two pieces: The farm policy portion passed in July and the $40 billion in food stamp cuts passed last month. No Democrats voted for either measure.
Rep. Steny Hoyer (Md.), the Democratic whip, said Tuesday that "there's room for a bipartisan bill" on farm policy. But such a deal, he warned, will hinge on the willingness of GOP leaders to resist their right flank and move closer to the Democrats' bill.
"There is no Democrat who is going to vote for a $40 billion cut in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, period," Hoyer said during his weekly press conference in the Capitol. "Nor, I think, does any rational Republican think that that is the case."