Ag Leaders Want to Keep Farm Bill Away from Budget Conference

The House is in recess this week - but House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson said he, Farm Bill Conference Committee Chair Frank Lucas, Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow and Senate Ag Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran plan to hold closed-door farm bill discussions this week. Peterson said negotiators would like to get the farm bill wrapped up by Thanksgiving - which would require an agreement soon. If a deal on the farm bill isn't reached - negotiators and lobbyists are concerned the budget conference committee will take control of the farm bill. The budget conference is led by Representative Paul Ryan - who has targeted the farm bill for savings in the past. He has called for some 20-billion dollars more in farm subsidy cuts than are included in the House-passed farm bill - and for some 90-billion dollars in cuts to food stamps. According to Peterson - who recently met with Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and top White House officials - the White House has no interest in the budget committee writing the farm bill.

An agreement on funding for food stamps - the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - is likely to be the biggest key to success for the farm bill conferees. The House cut SNAP funding by 40-billion dollars while the Senate cut 4.5-billion dollars. Peterson said Stabenow has made it clear Senate Democrats won't accept double digit levels of food stamp cuts. One lobbyist suggests the 11-billion dollar cut that went into effect Friday could provide some wiggle-room for both sides to allow for an agreement.

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