House and Senate negotiators are set to unveil a long-delayed farm bill conference report on Monday, with Agriculture Committee members in both chambers increasingly confident the $1 trillion bipartisan measure can pass the House on Wednesday.
Talks on the farm bill’s final issues were continuing Monday morning but the major pillars of the food stamp, farm subsidy and crop insurance measure are in place. The bill would authorize those programs for five years, and is expected to cost $950 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The bill will include $8 billion in cuts to food stamps, much less than the $39 billion cut initially sought by the House. Overall, the bill would save between $23 billion and $24 billion over 10 years compared to existing funding.
That is about $8 billion more than what the Senate-passed bill achieved but about $30 billion less than what the House bill would have saved.
Negotiators were still working on language related to country-of-origin meat labeling, regulations on stockyard market operations and an amendment by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) aimed at stopping California from banning eggs hatched from hens in tiny battery cages, an aide said.
The food stamps cuts are achieved, as expected, by making it more difficult to qualify for nutrition assistance by virtue of receiving home heating aid. The threshold is raised to $20 per month from $1 per month.
The bill contains funding for a new pilot program aimed at encouraging able-bodied recipients to find work and more than $200 million more for food banks. The pilot project represents a compromise because the House initially sought much tougher work requirements for food stamps.
On farm subsidies, the bill offers producers a choice between a shallow loss revenue insurance long favored by Northern crop growers and price-based supports supported by those in the South. The target prices for the Price Loss Coverage (PLC) option are the same as in the House-passed farm bill. The Agricultural Risk Coverage (ARC) program is triggered when revenue falls below 86 percent, up from 85 percent in the House bill and down from 89 percent in the Senate bill.
Negotiators have altered payment limit provisions contained in both the House and Senate farm bills. The limits are now capped at $125,000 per individual or $250,000 per couple, but caps within that total for PLC, ARC or marketing loan deficiency payments have been removed.
The compromise also changes restrictions on the so-called “actively engaged” provision. The criteria for management has been strengthened compared to current law, a source said, but the provision appears be scaled back from the labor requirement in the earlier versions of the bills.
“We are feeling positive. Everyone is working together and the powers that be know that we need to get this done,” an aide said.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) have been struggling to pass the law since 2012.
The latest delay came this month when Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) forbid any dairy reform containing milk supply management from inclusion in the bill. The compromise bill does not contain the management mechanism in the Senate bill but has other "tweaks" meant to address overproduction concerns.
The 2008 farm bill expired on Oct. 1 and without a new measure spring planting decisions are up in the air. The Agriculture Department technically should now be enforcing a reversion to 1949 law that would spike milk prices.
—This report was updated at 10:42 a.m.