The U.S. House of Representatives passed a nutrition-only bill by a vote of 217 to 210 on Thursday – which would cut 39-billion dollars from the food stamp program over 10-years. However – this nutrition bill does not include a measure to merge it with the farm-only bill the House passed in July. In order to get to conference on a comprehensive farm bill – the House would have to vote on another rule to merge the two bills together – and then ask the Senate for a conference.
According to the Hagstrom Report – House Speaker John Boehner believes Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will have to reappoint Senate conferees on the bill before the House appoints its conferees. But House Ag Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson doesn’t think conferees will be appointed until October – after the 2008 Farm Bill extension expires. Still – Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow says the vote is in the past – bringing the finish line closer. Stabenow says if House Republican leaders would drop the divisive issues, appoint conferees and work with the Senate in a bipartisan way – a farm bill could be finalized that creates jobs, reforms ag policy and significantly reduces the deficit.
House Ag Committee Chairman Frank Lucas says whatever comes out of the conference must be a comprehensive farm bill. Lucas says it shouldn’t be this hard to pass a bill to ensure U.S. and global consumers have enough to eat – but everything seems so hard these days. He urges his colleagues to go to conference.
The National Association of Conservation Districts also urges House leadership to appoint conferees as soon as possible. The farm bill process has been far from ideal – but NACD is encouraged the House’s passage of a nutrition bill will allow both chambers to unite across party lines and reach a consensus on a comprehensive farm bill supporting the conservation of the nation’s natural resources for the future. If a new farm bill is not passed before the extension’s expiration at the end of this month – NACD says there will be very real consequences for farmers, ranchers, the land, air, water and other natural resources that are the foundation of the nation’s food supply. NACD President Earl Garber says there has been uncertainty surrounding the farm bill for far too long – and it’s time to give farmers, ranchers and landowners the long-term assurances they need to make wise decisions regarding the future sustainability of their land and businesses.