Farm bill conference slows as Congress focuses on approps bills
The current farm bill expires September 30, but progress on reaching compromises on a new bill appeared to slow down late this week as Congress began to focus on deals on fiscal 2019 appropriations bills that also need to be passed by the end of the month if a government shutdown is to be avoided.
Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told reporters Thursday that the Senate and the House remain far apart on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and on the commodity, conservation and energy titles, Politico reported.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan.,who is also chairing the conference with the House, has posted video of the public meeting of the conferees earlier this week.
Meanwhile, congressional leaders are trying to avoid the shutdown that President Donald Trump has threatened over his proposal to build a wall on the Mexican border. The schedule is particularly tight because both the House and the Senate are scheduled to be out of session Monday and Tuesday for the Jewish holidays, and the House is scheduled to be out of session the entire week beginning September 17.
Senate Appropriations Committee ranking member Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Thursday that “the end of the fiscal year is only few short weeks away, but, because of the record pace of our work, there is no reason that we cannot conference all of these bills with the House, and send all nine to the president’s desk before October 1.”
“That would be quite an accomplishment,” Leahy said. “It would show the American people that when it matters, Congress can come together and do the job we were sent here to do.”
Leahy noted that the appropriations bills are grouped in what are called minibuses, including the Agriculture appropriations bill. The Senate version of the fiscal 2019 agriculture bill “is a win for farmers, families, and rural communities,” he said.
“Every state in this nation has rural communities and farm economies that benefit from these important programs — from clean water programs to investments in rural broadband, from rural housing assistance to agricultural research — this bill touches millions of lives,” Leahy said.
“In the wake of uncertainty and chaos caused by trade wars and tariffs, our farmers and rural communities deserve better than inaction on appropriations.”
–The Hagstrom Report
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In response to the severe drought conditions in the West and Great Plains, the Agriculture Department this week announced that plans to help cover the cost of transporting feed for livestock that rely on grazing.