Farm Bill Conferees Reach Bipartisan Agreement

Speaker of the House John Boehner.
National Journal
Billy House
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Billy House
Jan. 27, 2014, 8:42 a.m.

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.

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