The Washington Post

Farm Bill negotiations to begin next week

After years of delays, public negotiations on a new five-year Farm Bill are scheduled to begin next week, lawmakers announced Wednesday.


House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) ( Paul Hellstern)

The first public meeting of the Farm Bill conference committee will be held next Wednesday afternoon and will be chaired by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.). (By tradition, responsibility for chairing Farm Bill conference committees alternates between the two chambers, and the House is up this time around.)

The Senate passed its comprehensive Farm Bill in the early summer, while the House passed its farm policy and food aid proposals in two separate measures after a large bloc of conservative lawmakers insisted on splitting the legislation apart. The legislation will be stitched together for the sake of a House-Senate compromise.

The biggest issue of contention will be funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- more commonly known as food stamps. The Senate measure would cut about $4 billion in funding for the program over the next decade, while the House version would slash nearly $40 billion.

Forty-one House and Senate lawmakers have been assigned to the conference committee, a group that represents myriad partisan, ideological, geographic, and political turf priorities. Most of the members are from the House and Senate Agriculture committees, with others appointed by party leaders. A handful of the House members also come from the Ways and Means and Foreign Affairs committees, because the far-reaching Farm Bill deals in part with tax policy and foreign aid. (See the full list below.)

Public conference committees are rare, making next week's event notable. But the first day of hearings is expected to focus primarily on permitting all 41 lawmakers to make an opening statement, if they so choose. Deeper discussion of the differences in the two measures is expected to occur in the coming weeks.

Congress has until Jan. 1 to pass a new Farm Bill otherwise parts of federal agricultural policy will begin reverting back to 1940s-era laws and price levels.

Here's the full list of members, as provided by the Senate Agriculture Committee:

Democrats:

  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee
  • Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.)
  • Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa)
  • Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.)
  • Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)
  • Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)
  • Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.)

Republicans:

  • Sen. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.), Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee
  • Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)
  • Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.)
  • Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.)
  • Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.)

From the House:

Republicans:

  • Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.), Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee
  • Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)
  • Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R-Tex.)
  • Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.)
  • Rep. K. Michael Conaway (R-Tex.)
  • Rep. Glenn ‘GT’ Thompson (R-Pa.)
  • Rep. Austin Scott (R-Ga.)
  • Rep. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.)
  • Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.)
  • Rep. Kristi Noem (R-S.D.)
  • Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.)
  • Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.)
  • Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.)
  • Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Rep. Tom Marino (R-Pa.)
  • Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee
  • Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Tex.)

Democrats:

  • Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Ranking Member of House Agriculture Committee
  • Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.)
  • Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.)
  • Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.)
  • Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.)
  • Rep. Suzan DelBene (D-Wash.)
  • Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Calif.)
  • Rep. Filemon Vela (D-Tex.)
  • Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio)
  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), ranking member on House Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Rep. Sandy Levin (D-MI), ranking member on House Ways and Means Committee
Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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