Published since 1946
Farm Bill Conference Moving Slowly Forward
House and Senate members of the conference committee established to negotiate a final Farm Bill met as a full group for the first time on September 5. The meeting was largely spent with the 56 members of the conference committee making speeches about their personal priorities within the final bill. However, leaders of the Agriculture Committees in both chambers – Senators Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Congressmen Mike Conaway (R-TX) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) have been meeting regularly to try and work through some of the more controversial provisions. While the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has created the most division among members, there are still differences on conservation provisions. The House bill proposes to eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) and roll some of its provisions within the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) while the Senate maintained CSP. In addition, House provisions to provide categorical exclusions from National Environmental Policy Act reviews of forest thinning projects that are smaller than 6,000 acres has raised concerns with some members.
“Today my colleagues in the House and Senate highlighted the urgency in farm and ranch country and just how desperate times are as net farm income is slated to fall again this year,” commented House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Conaway in a statement after the first meeting of the conference committee. “While I’m pleased with progress on the farm bill – we must pick up the pace. This will all come together quickly if all four principals are willing to make meaningful compromises. I have made it very clear that I am willing to do so. We still have a lot of work to do, but I believe we can get this done on time.”
Committee leadership is hoping to negotiate compromise provisions that they will carry forward to the conference committee members in order to pass legislation before the current version expires at the end of September.