WASHINGTON, Sept. 9, 2013 – The House is poised to work on a farm bill nutrition title next week as lawmakers continue to find a way forward on a five-year farm bill, a congressional aide close to the negotiations said Monday.
The aide, speaking before the National Farmers Union’s annual legislative fly-in, said the plan is to first approve legislation that would reportedly contain about $40 billion in cuts, over 10 years, to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Then, the House would move to combine the nutrition title with the rest of the House-passed farm bill, before sending the package to conference with the Senate. While the Senate, which approved a farm bill with a nutrition title, has named its conferees, the House has yet to follow suit.
The aide said the option of simply extending current agricultural policy is not on the table, and passage of another extension “would be a failure.”
He said the House committee-passed farm bill that first fell on the floor was voted down because the country is “less rural” and many lawmakers do not know where their food comes from. Further, he said it is “hard to do a farm bill” when prices are strong.
“All members see our farmers doing well,” the aide said.
The farm bill topic, of course, dominated the NFU’s gathering.
Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., again stressed the importance of approving a long-term farm bill.
“We can’t have any more excuses,” Stabenow said. “It needs to get done, it needs to get done.”
Stabenow said she believes a farm bill, in theory, could get done before the Sept. 30 expiration, but noted the House would need to name conferees rather than move on a separate nutrition title bill next week. She added later that she anticipates passage “in the fall.”
“What the House is doing is a political exercise,” she said. “It makes the farm bill a partisan bill.”
At an event featuring Neil Young, who was rocking a “Go Family Farms” shirt, Stabenow told reporters that she met with House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, over the August recess and was encouraged by the conversation.
However, she said that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has been “taking every step to block the bill.”
At the event, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., urged NFU members to “weigh on the House” to get the legislation through Congress. Reid praised Young for making the NFU appearance.
“It’s good that someone like Neil Young would travel across the country for this,” Reid said, noting that Young has repeatedly performed at Farm Aid concerts. “He can help change the world.”
Young, who is on a national tour to promote clean energy with his hybrid 1959 Lincoln Continental convertible that uses electricity and biomass fuel, said Renewable Fuel Standards should be raised to allow more than a 10 percent blend of ethanol in gasoline.
“My car is fast and clean,” Young said, noting he had to stop just once for fuel during his cross country trip from Montana to Washington.
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