Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts plans to call the first formal meeting of the farm bill conference committee shortly after the Labor Day recess and hopes to make headway by then in settling differences with the House negotiators.
The Senate's nine farm bill negotiators include Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who wants the legislation finalized next month, as well as a Democrat facing a tough re-election race this fall, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota.
When House and Senate negotiators sit down in coming days to start writing the final version of a new farm bill, they will find that many of their sharpest differences will be over how far they should reshape and fund conservation programs.
Leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee have agreed to include tougher commodity program eligibility rules proposed by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, in the farm bill the Senate is debating this week.
If history is a guide, there’s little chance Congress will enact a new farm bill this year. Congress hasn’t enacted a farm bill in the same year it was first introduced since 1990, which is what lawmakers are trying to do this year.
Leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee this week will seek to get a strong bipartisan vote for their farm bill draft from the panel, giving the measure momentum as it heads to the Senate floor in the following days.