Members of Congress have arrived back in Washington, D.C., and are looking to tackle a long list of legislative priorities, including the long-pending farm bill. Here’s a review of where that vital legislation stands:
House: The House is expected to take up a nutrition package next week to cut $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps. It is not certain this proposal, which is seen as severe by Democrats and even some Republicans, will pass and be able to move to conference along with the previously-passed “farm-only” farm bill. Regardless, following that vote, House leaders are expected to appoint conferees so the process can continue moving forward. That procedural goal is not likely to be reached before the 2008 Farm Bill extension expires on Sept. 30.
Senate: The Senate passed its complete farm bill package in June and named its farm bill conferees just before leaving for August recess. This week, Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) publicly pushed the House, saying “it’s time to stop kicking the can down the road.” She also voiced opposition to any extension.
USDA: Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack also made his Department’s views clear this week in several media interviews and appearances. He expressed strong opposition to any extension, though the White House has not yet issued a formal veto threat. The Administration is also publicly and strongly opposed the SNAP cuts to be considered by the House.
Next Up: The expected next action toward the farm bill finish line is House consideration of a nutrition bill. It’s unlikely that chamber will move toward conference before a nutrition vote, so getting floor time for that legislation around other priorities, including the budget, is crucial to the entire process moving forward.
Your Voices Needed: NAWG and other agriculture groups strongly encouraged farmers to reach out to their Members of Congress during the August recess. Now that Congress is back in town, this outreach should intensify in person, by phone and on social media. All Members of Congress, particularly House Members, should be urged to push their leadership for completion of a long-term, comprehensive farm bill before the end of the month.