Wednesday, lawmakers from both the House and Senate came together to discuss and debate the 2018 farm bill. As expected, food stamps were the main focus of the first conference committee meeting.
“A compromise may be brewing via tightening rules under which states can get waivers from work requirements,” says Jim Wiesemeyer, ProFarmer policy analyst. “If so, up the odds a farm bill conference report could still be voted on by the end of the month and before efforts are needed to extend the current farm bill.”
According to Wiesemeyer, the so-called "big four" of the House and Senate Ag Committees met after the first public session of the conference on the farm bill, labeling their session as the "most productive" they have had, according to House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).
"We got into it with each other a little bit, which we needed to do," he said. "That's part of the process."
House Ag Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) said there were some "difficult conversations" about the differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation.
“We are very close to the finish line, but we still have a lot of work — a lot of compromise — that remains to be done,” said Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in his opening statement at the first public meeting of farm bill negotiators yesterday.
Lawmakers are waiting on Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores of certain revised provisions, Wiesemeyer says. Those numbers are expected to be released to the committee today, but will likely not be made public.
“We've got a bunch of ideas that we think might be the middle ground, but they aren’t scored,” Peterson said. “We’re going to get together as soon as we get that scoring and it might help us resolve some stuff.”
President Trump is focused on the farm bill as well, mentioning it both on Twitter and during in a meeting with GOP congressional leaders.
According to Wiesemeyer, Trump told the lawmakers he wants to “make sure we pass a farm bill, which is moving along nicely, before the end of the month to help our great farmers.”
A farm bill with work requirements for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients "will bolster farmers and get America back to work. Pass the Farm bill with SNAP work requirements," Trump said.
"I strongly support a common-sense work requirement in the food stamps in the farm bill. We'll see if we can get that," he said. "The farmers would like to get that."
The race against the clock is on to finish negotiations and get a farm bill passed before the current fam bill expires on September.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said If a bill isn’t finished this month, “it’s going to be a bipartisan failure of extraordinary notice to the farmers and ranchers of our country.”