WASHINGTON, July 18, 2013 - The Senate approved a unanimous consent agreement late Thursday to send its five-year farm bill (S. 954) back to the House and formally request a conference.

The UC agreement allows Senate to appoint its conferees as early as the week of July 22. Senate conferees would consist of seven Democrats and five Republicans under the agreement.

“We are, in fact, now officially sending back our Senate bill to the House and requesting a conference on the farm bill,” Stabenow said. “This is a very important step. As everyone knows, we have been working very hard on a bipartisan basis in the Senate.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., can choose their conferees at any time.

The eventual conference will have many thorny issues to resolve, including the lack of a nutrition title in the House-passed bill (H.R. 2642).

“This is a very important step as we move forward in what I am very confident, despite the twists and turns, will result in a bipartisan farm bill,” Stabenow said. “I want to commend despite terrific odds and challenges the chairman in the House and ranking member in the House for their efforts, and I’m confident that working together that we will be able to get this done for the American people.”

Meanwhile, more than 240 groups from around the country urged Congress today to approve a “full and fair” farm bill this summer and “without further delay.”

The groups, including the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and the National Family Farm Coalition, represent an array of interests including agriculture, food, religious, and environmental.

The groups said such a farm bill must include farm, food and nutrition, conservation and rural economic development programs as well as commodity and crop insurance reforms.

“It must also provide renewed and enhanced funding for the now-stranded but critical subset of programs that assist the most chronically under-served segments of agriculture and our rural and urban communities,” the groups said.

The groups urged the House and the Senate to immediately appoint conferees to work in an “open and urgent fashion” toward adopting a farm bill.

They said the bill should include all nutrition programs, while rejecting all cuts or changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that would increase hunger or reduce access to nutrition education for any of the 47 million Americans who currently rely on the program to meet basic food needs.

The groups’ full statement can be viewed here.


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