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 looks to finally name its team of farm bill negotiators this week while also finishing work on a $154 billion spending bill for a bevy of departments and agencies important to agriculture, including USDA and FDA.
The House took a step Wednesday toward beginning formal negotiations with the Senate over a new farm bill and overwhelmingly voted in favor of including permanent funding for USDA efforts to combat animal diseases.
The fate of the farm bill this year could hinge on whether House and Senate negotiators can find a compromise on tightening work requirements for food stamp recipients in ways that could appeal to at least some Senate Democrats.
The passage of the House and Senate farm bills over two weeks and the overwhelming, bipartisan margin of support for the Senate measure is providing new optimism that Congress can agree on a final version that President Donald Trump will sign this fall.
House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway hopes to finally get his farm bill to the Senate this week, but the outcome hinges on House Republican leaders going forward with plans to debate a pair of competing immigration measures.