March 19, 2018

Hopes For Bipartisan House Farm Bill Fading

 |  By: Tom Karst

With the Easter recess soon to start and no draft farm bill yet released, hopes for a bipartisan bill from the House of Representatives Agriculture Committee appear to be fading.

Numerous media reports said Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee were balking at proposed Republican changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

House Agriculture chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, has been promising a farm bill since January but the SNAP controversy has apparently derailed the attempt to move the bill, said Ferd Hoefner, senior strategic advisor for the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. The Easter recess runs from March 26 to April 6. Hoefner said it is doubtful lawmakers will return from the break ready to compromise.

“That leads me to think one of two things will happen — the farm bill continues to stall while negotiations continue to happen, or the (Republicans) just decide they might as well forge ahead and see what happens,” he said.

If House Agriculture Committee Republicans decided to proceed with their own version of the farm bill without Democratic support, it will doom the prospects of passing it on the floor, Hoefner said.

The best-case scenario might be if Republicans make some policy changes to the SNAP program, but none so dramatic that would cut either the benefits or limit recipients’ time on the rolls.

“Then you would get bipartisan support, not 100%, but enough to say it is bipartisan in the committee,” he said.

The Senate usually waits on the House to produce a farm bill before starting work on a Senate version, but Hoefner said it might be better if the Senate acted first for this farm bill.

“If the House doesn’t seem like it is able to pass a bipartisan bill, we would love it if the Senate took up the mantle,” he said. “I think we would probably get to a successful bill done faster that way.”