Naming of House farm bill conferees nearing, Peterson says

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2013 - While House leadership is not expected to announce conferees for the farm bill until after the debt ceiling issue is resolved, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said Thursday the list will contain 12 Republicans and nine Democrats.

Peterson said the House could move to settle the debt ceiling issue, for its part at least, and appoint farm bill conferees this weekend. He said Democratic conferees will likely be the top nine in seniority on the committee. Peterson said one Republican conferee will not be from committee.

“There is a list, but it's not official,” Peterson said. “My position is that I don't want to bring anybody in from out of the committee. That's what blew it up on the floor, this is a very bad idea to bring in non-Ag people.”

Lets Talk Food

Peterson was referring to Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., whose amendment to implement work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) was blamed for the initial failure of the farm bill earlier this year in the House.

“[He's] one that's a real problem,” Peterson said.

Although the GOP roster is not official, Hill sources say it is widely expected to include Southerland, along with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R.-Okla., and his five subcommittee chairs - Reps. Michael Conaway, R.-Texas, Rick Crawford, R.-Ark., Steve King, R.-Iowa, Austin Scott, R.-Ga., and Glenn Thompson, R.-Pa.

In addition, Reps. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., Kristi Noem, R-S.D., Martha Roby, R.- Ala., Rodney Davis, R.-Ill., Jeff Denham, R.-Ca.
 Still, Peterson said he does not expect SNAP benefits to seriously disrupt negotiations in conference.

“Democrats in the House will not blow the bill up over food stamps,” Peterson said. “We won't have a $40 billion cut, that's not where's it's going to end up.”

Also, Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), member of the House Agriculture Committee, took to the House floor Thursday to hold a “special order” discussion on the importance of Congress approving a long-term farm bill.

“Lost in the discussions of the government shutdown and the debt limit is the fact that the farm bill expired earlier this month,” Davis said. “Our farmers and our entire agriculture sector need the certainty that a long-term farm bill will bring them.”

Davis told lawmakers that he wanted to remind producers that Congress has not forgotten, and that he is still fighting for a five-year bill.

“Farmers used to just have to worry about the uncertainty of the weather,” Davis said. “Now they have uncertainty from Washington. This is unfortunate, but something we can correct.”

Meanwhile, Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmers Union, sent a letter Thursday to Senate and House discussing concerns about the impact the government shutdown is having on family farmers and ranchers.

“Perhaps most disappointing about all of these manufactured crises, exacerbated by the lapsed farm bill, is that solutions are close at hand but Congress chooses not to execute them,” Johnson said.

South Dakota and other states suffered the loss of tens of thousands of cattle in a recent blizzard and Johnson said the federal shutdown has left ranchers without assistance. 

“The USDA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency are prepared to handle events like these, but the government shutdown, along with the expired farm bill, leaves ranchers without the urgent help they need,” said Johnson. “Both the House and Senate versions of the pending farm bill include a retroactive livestock indemnity provision, which would provide much-needed assistance to ranchers but cannot be accessed because of the legislative stalemate.”

NFU noted that the shutdown has stopped nearly all USDA services, including payments for previously approved commodity marketing loans and the ability for the government to co-sign checks for the sales of crops or livestock from farmers or ranchers with Farm Service Agency loans.

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