House and Senate leaders on Monday night announced a conference committee had reached bipartisan agreement on a five-year farm-bill conference report, and the House Rules Committee was moving in the evening to set up a floor vote on Wednesday.
As described in an announcement from House Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the measure — which costs more than $900 billion over 10 years — contains a number of major reforms.
There was no official score yet as of early Monday night from the Congressional Budget Office. But the Rules Committee was expected to reconvene later in the evening to set floor procedures for the anticipated vote.
"We are putting in place sound policy that is good for farmers, ranchers, consumers, and those who have hit difficult times," said Lucas, while Stabenow added that the bipartisan bill "saves taxpayers billions, eliminates unnecessary subsidies, creates a more effective farm safety-net, and helps farmers and businesses create jobs."
After House passage, the bill would then move to the Senate for final approval. When asked if the measure would pass both chambers, Stabenow said she was very "optimistic."
One of the most contentious parts of the bill — the amount of a cut to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps — has a been resolved with a compromise cut of about $8 billion to $8.5 billion over 10 years, aides to committee members say. That resolution lands between the Senate's proposed $4 billion cuts and the House's $39 billion proposed savings. The compromise cut to food stamps is paid for with changes to the way some states calculate a household's benefit level for food assistance under the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The agreement also is described as strengthening crop insurance.
A lingering issue has been how far the federal government should go in continuing price controls that artificially sustain certain dairy price levels. That is a practice that is backed by many lawmakers but opposed by others who complain it costs taxpayers billions of dollars, with House Speaker John Boehner even deriding it as a "Soviet-style" system. Details were sketchy, but one member of the conference, Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., said that Boehner was "in agreement" with how the bill addresses that.