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Farm Bill Moving Forward

McClatchy writer Bryan Lowry reported Wednesday that, “Pat Roberts isn’t ready to celebrate a deal on the farm bill, but he’s getting closer.

Roberts, the Kansas Republican who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, said that he and the other three principal negotiators on the legislation have reached a tentative agreement on the bill and are now waiting on analysis from the Congressional Budget Office for a final bill.

Mr. Lowry added that, “Roberts would not discuss the details of the tentative agreement, but said that it included a compromise over proposed changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps.”

Politico writers Catherine Boudreau and Liz Crampton reported Wednesday that, “Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts indicated Wednesday that farm bill negotiators have reached a tentative agreement and were awaiting final cost estimates before making a formal announcement.

“‘We have to put the bill together and then we have to get the scores,’ Roberts told reporters. He cautioned that things could change.”

Meanwhile, Washington Post writers Erica Werner and Jeff Stein reported Wednesday that, “Lawmakers have been at odds over a House GOP proposal to boost work requirements for food stamp recipients, but Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said they had resolved the debate over the work requirements and other outstanding issues.

“The senators declined to offer details of the emerging compromise, cautioning that it was not final and could change pending completion of cost analyses and legislative language. Nonetheless, both expressed optimism the legislation could pass before the conclusion of Congress’s lame-duck session next month.”

The Post article noted that, “Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the No. 3 Senate Republican, said that his understanding was that the compromise language on food stamps was likely to hew closer to the initial Senate version of the bill — which did not have the new work requirements.”

Also Wednesday, Reuters writer Humeyra Pamuk reported that, “U.S. lawmakers are very close to reaching a consensus in days on the Farm Bill, two senior senators said on Wednesday, after months of bitter partisan debate over the legislation to fund $867 billion in food and agriculture programs.”

“‘We have finally reached a point where I think we’re very close and very encouraged,’ Republican Senator Pat Roberts from Kansas, who heads the Senate’s Agriculture Committee, told reporters.

“Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow from Michigan said at the same briefing that she was very encouraged by the progress made.”

The article noted that, “With Democrats in control of the House, lawmakers have been hopeful the deadlock could be resolved but recently forestry provisions have emerged as a new point of contention, following the deadly wildfires in California earlier this month.”

On Thursday morning, DTN Special Correspondent Jerry Hagstrom reported that, “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, said late Wednesday that he and the other agriculture committee leaders have reached an ‘agreement in principle’ on the farm bill, but there are more details to be worked out.

“‘I am excited about the progress that has been made. We’ve reached an agreement in principle, but we’ve got more work to do. I’m committed to delivering this important win to rural America,’ Conaway said in an email to DTN.

Conaway’s statement was important because Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., had all issued statements earlier in the day indicating agreement while Conaway remained silent.

Background- Forestry Debate

Prior to Wednesday afternoon’s developments, McClatchy writers Bryan Lowry and Emily Cadei reported Tuesday that, “An increasingly fierce debate about how to prevent deadly wildfires in California is threatening to endanger crucial crop insurance for farmers in Kansas and Missouri.

In the wake of wildfires that killed at least 88 people this month, President Donald Trump’s administration is pressuring Congress to include provisions in the farm policy bill that would roll back regulations on forest-thinning projects — a move the administration says would save lives and property.”

Tuesday’s article noted that, “Environmental groups and many Democrats are staunchly opposed to the Republican-backed forestry measures, which are included in the version of the farm bill the GOP-led House passed earlier this year. And Democrats — who can block the legislation in the Senate — are not willing to concede much.

‘What the House has proposed on forestry would kill the farm bill,’ Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan, top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, warned Tuesday.

Lowry and Cadei explained that, “The House plan would enable the Forest Service to expedite forest management projects to prevent catastrophic wildfires, according to House GOP aides.

“But critics warn that okaying certain thinning projects would be destructive to the environment and actually increase the danger posed by wildfires.”

“Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kansas, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said in an email that failing to include the provisions ‘would mean the continued mismanagement of forests which, as we have seen in the recent devastating fires, can have drastic consequences,'” the article noted.

Also Tuesday, Ellyn Ferguson reported at Roll Call Online that, “Forestry provisions have emerged as the latest snag in farm bill negotiations, sending the issue to congressional leaders for talks to break the impasse.”

Ms. Ferguson pointed out that,

Stabenow said she, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas, and House Agriculture Chairman K. Michael Conaway of Texas, and ranking member Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota have a handful of other issues to finish up including federal payment limits of farm subsidies.

Politico’s Morning Agriculture reported Wednesday that, “With Senate and House members back in town Tuesday, high-level farm bill negotiators met throughout the day to try to resolve nettlesome policy disputes still holding up a final conference agreement.

“Senate Ag Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said congressional leaders discussed issues like forest management and wildfire prevention, which has emerged as a major sticking point late in the talks — especially after the deadly blazes in California.

The standoff over forestry is ‘one of the final ones we’re still chewing on,’ House Ag Chairman Mike Conaway told [Morning Agriculture], sounding exasperated that House and Senate leaders ‘unfortunately’ had been called in to work it out. ‘It had to get to a decision-maker at some point in time. Wasting five months of not negotiating the forestry title, now it’s got to get done,’ he said.”

A Guide To Your National Forests. USDA- U.S. Forest Service (
Keith Good Photo

Keith Good is the Farm Policy News editor for the farmdoc project. He has previously worked for the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, and compiled the daily News Summary from 2003-2015. He is a graduate of Purdue University (M.S.- Agricultural Economics), and Southern Illinois University School of Law.

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