Congress is launching a debate this year over federal child nutrition programs, which haven’t been reauthorized since the Obama administration successfully pushed through sweeping changes in school meals more than eight years ago.
Democrats on the Senate Agriculture Committee clashed with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue over his proposal to make it harder for states to get waivers from work requirements in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
The Senate Agriculture Committee scheduled a Nov. 28 hearing on three nominations for top positions at USDA: Mindy Brashears to be undersecretary for food safety; Naomi Earp, to be assistant secretary for civil rights; and Scott Hutchins, to be the department's chief scientist.
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.