House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) is scheduled to release the text of the controversial Republican House Farm Bill this afternoon, but the Chairman gave AgriTalk radio listeners a sneak peek Thursday morning. Speaking with AgriTalk Host Chip Flory and Pro Farmer Washington Analyst Jim Wiesemeyer, Conaway said the agriculture side of the bill addresses all of the priorities of Democrat members of the committee.
“Except for SNAP, the entire farm bill is bipartisan,” Conaway said. “I worked with Collin (ranking Ag Committee Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota) on every piece of this. All of his priorities are in there.”
Conaway said there are not big changes to Title I of the farm bill, with some fine-tuning to the data used for ARC and PLC payments. The biggest change coming with a change to the use of Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) data rather than data from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) to determine payments. The move is designed to reduce widely disparate payments between neighboring counties.
Conaway told Flory that conservation rental rates will go down.
“They were set against much higher commodity prices so they’re too competitive right now,” Conaway said, “so we’ll lower payments rates. We’ll expand acreage, stair step it up over the five years of the bill.”
Conservation programs will be consolidated, with a focus on the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQUIP), according to Conaway.
The big sticking point, of course, comes from proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
“I’m hopeful that when the actual SNAP provision do come out and people see what we’re actually doing as opposed to what’s in the made-up narrative out there, they’ll take a second look,” Conaway said.
According to Conaway, the SNAP changes do not affect anyone younger than 18 or older than 59, those on disability or single parents of a child under 6. Those not exempt will be required to participate in a state-run job training or volunteer program or work a minimum number of hours to qualify for SNAP payments.
Conaway said the bill will be marked up in the House Agriculture Committee next week, likely on Wednesday.