Farm Bill Negotiators Aim to Hash Things Out in Veterans Day Meeting

Republicans lost their bargaining edge with the election, Collin Peterson says

Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who will likely take control of the House Agriculture Committee next year, and Mike Conaway, R-Texas, the current chairman, have locked in their plans for Veterans Day. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The two top House farm bill negotiators plan to meet on a federal holiday Monday to try to find a way forward on a compromise measure that could pass a lame-duck Congress.

Collin C. Peterson, currently the ranking member on the House Agriculture Committee and presumed chairman in the 116th Congress, said he and current Chairman K. Michael Conaway of Texas would meet on Veterans Day to discuss the legislation. A Peterson aide on Friday confirmed the Nov. 12 meeting.

The House and Senate are scheduled to be back Tuesday.

“I want this done. I don’t want this farm bill to be on my plate when I become chairman,” Peterson said during a Thursday interview on the North Dakota-based Adams on Agriculture radio broadcast. “We’re going to get together next Monday, Mike and I. I want to get this thing wrapped up.”

Negotiators from the two chambers tried to reach a compromise on the pending farm bill legislation, but negotiations stalled over several provisions including the GOP demand for expanded work requirements for people who receive benefits under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

With the midterm elections handing the House majority to Democrats, Peterson said he does not think House Republicans have any bargaining edge to press for expanded work requirements and other changes to SNAP, formerly known as the food stamp program.

A farm bill with those provisions could not pass the Senate in the lame duck because of Democratic opposition and a Democratic House in the 116th Congress would keep them out of a farm bill.

“Now [with] what’s happened with the election, the leverage, whatever leverage they did have on the SNAP stuff, I don’t see that they have any leverage anymore,” Peterson said.

He said he favors cutting back on federal waivers to states that ease existing work requirements for SNAP recipients, but Peterson added that he does not think the Senate would accept such restrictions.

Peterson, Conaway and Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking member Debbie Stabenow left for recess in October with an agreement to try to have a compromise ready by Nov. 14. Peterson said it is unclear if they can make the deadline to resolve differences between their respective 2018 farm bills.

The House and Senate passed bills differ significantly on SNAP and on the future of a major conservation program and on farm subsidy payment rules.

The 2014 farm bill expired Sept. 30, but major farm programs for crops and dairy won’t begin expiring until December.

In the radio interview, Peterson said staff from both committees continued to meet during the recess to resolve differences and the Congressional Budget Office provided cost estimates for various proposals.

“It’s a matter of making a decision on what will be in a final bill,” Peterson said. “I think we’re close, but I’m not in charge of anything.”

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