Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said Tuesday she is waiting for the House leadership to respond to the receipt of the Senate farm bill, to call for a conference and to appoint conferees.
“We are waiting for them to take a step,” Stabenow told reporters after a confirmation hearing, adding that she hopes the conferees are appointed before the August congressional recess.
She joked that she hopes the House will just pass the Senate bill, but in more serious tones said “we need them to formally object” to the Senate bill and appoint conferees to work out the differences.
Stabenow noted that she, Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn, have met and that their staffs are “in the process” of meeting. But she added that there is a limit to what the Agriculture committee leaders can do before a formal conference is called and conferees are named.
The Agriculture committee leaders are “talking through” the differences in the commodity title, she said, adding that the conservation and specialty crop titles are “close together.”
On the House provision that would repeal current permanent law from 1938 and 1949 and make Title I — the commodity title — of the new bill permanent, Stabenow said that replacing permanent law “doesn’t make sense for the future of the farm bill.”
At the beginning of the hearing, Stabenow also noted that the Senate had sent its “comprehensive” bill that included the nutrition title to the House, and thanked the senators who helped her get the Senate to agree to unanimous consent to the send the bill to the House, particularly Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and John Hoeven, R- N.D.
At the hearing today, Chambliss said of the farm bill, “It is imperative we get that done.”
The Senate will insist on a comprehensive bill including nutrition, Stabenow said, adding that proposals to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by more than $4 billion per year had failed in the Senate. On the possibility of a larger cut, she added, however, that, “We’ll see what the House does.”
“The farm bill without the nutrition title cannot make it through the Senate or be signed by the president,” Stabenow said.
The office of House Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, did not return a call seeking comment.
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