Farm bill conference set for after Labor Day

Source: Marc Heller, E&E News reporter • Posted: Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The House-Senate conference committee crafting the 2018 farm bill will meet for the first time Sept. 5, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts said yesterday.

The Kansas Republican said committee staff members have made progress on some sections of the five-year legislation, including on differences between House and Senate provisions on conservation.

Other areas, such as proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, remain to be worked out, he said.

Roberts told reporters he’s advised committee staff to “try to single out the policy issues and see where we can have a good landing spot” in advance of the conference committee meeting.

The House and Senate are split on the nutrition program, with the House set on work-related requirements that Democrats say they won’t support. On conservation programs, the House proposes to eliminate the Conservation Stewardship Program and expands acreage under the Conservation Reserve Program more than the Senate version, among other differences.

“I think we’ve made some real progress with the conservation title,” Roberts said. “That was another biggie.”

On the nutrition program, Roberts said he’ll try to convince House counterparts that changes contemplated by the Senate Agriculture Committee would achieve the same goals of program integrity.

Lawmakers are trying to reach a compromise bill before the 2014 farm bill expires at the end of September.

The top four leaders of the agriculture committees discussed their progress in a conference call last Thursday, Roberts said. In addition to Roberts, the lawmakers are Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.).

Roberts said the lawmakers have discussed “nothing major since then,” and he doesn’t anticipate another call this week unless an issue arises that requires it.

“Right now, I don’t see that,” he said.