Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., said Wednesday he wants to mark up the next farm bill in April and that his staff and the staff of Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., are already sending bill language back and forth.
Roberts told a Global Child Nutrition Forum luncheon attended by most of the Washington agricultural establishment that he wants to do the mark-up in April. He also told the forum that he was happy to the last farm bill established the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research in the last farm bill, which does research that benefits both agriculture and global nutrition.
Afterward he told reporters, “We’re sharing language now with the minority, and Deborah and I will be meeting quite soon. Staff is meeting these next couple of weeks. I know they’re doing the same thing in the House.”
The key, he said, is to be able to come together with a bill that has majority support so that he and Stabenow can tell Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., that they need floor time.
With floor time always an issue, Roberts pointed out that in 2014 the farm bill had 63 amendments, but was done in two days on the floor.
Roberts said he would like to move the bill in March, but the omnibus appropriations bill and immigration will be priorities. He also said it is important to get the bill “right” before marking it up.
Noting that farm prices are low, Roberts said, “Now is the time to say we have a farm bill.” Farmers, he said, “need predictability and stability.”
Asked about potential conflicts with the House over the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Roberts said he is always willing to talk to House members about SNAP but that there are House members who view the issue differently.
In his speech, Roberts also said, “I don’t like tariffs.”
Speaking to reporters, Roberts said the farm bill and tariffs “are not a separate issue” because farmers need to export.
But Roberts said while he is concerned about countries using farm products in retaliation against aluminum and steel tariffs, the tariff is also “a consumer tax.”
The benefits of the tax bill could be negated by the tariffs and a trade war, he indicated.
Asked about influencing Trump, Roberts said, “The president knows exactly where we stand.” He noted that groups of senators have gone to the White House “five, six, seven” times to tell the president their views on trade.
“It is what it is,” Roberts concluded.
Jerry Hagstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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