U.S. House of Representatives' passage of legislation Sept. 19 to cut food stamp benefits by $40 billion over 10 years may complicate negotiations to pass a farm bill but it is not a deal-breaker, sources say.
The House bill, passing with only Republican support, by a margin of 217 to 210, jeopardizes chances for passing a farm bill, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in a news release. “Not only does this House bill represent a shameful attempt to kick millions of families in need off of food assistance, it’s also a monumental waste of time,” Stabenow said.
She said the bill as it stands won’t pass the Senate.
However, Stabenow said if House Republican leaders “drop the divisive issues, appoint conferees and work with us in a bipartisan way,” a farm bill can be finalized.
“It’s time to get a comprehensive farm bill done to give farmers and ranchers the certainty they need to continue growing the economy,” she said.
With farm bill programs expiring at the end of September, the time is short to act.
The House and Senate have always been far apart relative to the nutrition title of the farm bill, said Kam Quarles, director of legislative affairs for the Washington, D.C.-based McDermott Will & Emery law firm.
“That story remains the same and in order to get to a final bill they have got to sit down and conference it,” Quarles said.
Savings in the broader farm bill — and particularly the nutrition title — could be valuable for other priorities such as the debt-limit debate, he said.
The prospect of sharply higher dairy prices may also spur House and Senate leaders to compromise on the farm bill.
“Optimistically, all of those things linked together make me believe they are going to move relatively quickly to try to resolve the difference and put together a reauthorized bill,” he said.
After the Senate passed its version of the farm bill in June, the House of Representatives passed the farm bill without the nutrition title by a narrow vote in July. Passage of the nutrition title on Sept. 19 will allow the House and Senate to appoint conference committee members to see if a compromise can be reached.
Quarles said fruit and vegetable advocates need a new farm bill to revive funding to the Specialty Crops Research Initiative, a program that has been without funding since the 2008 farm bill was extended last year.