House budget reconciliation complicates Farm Bill

Work on the Farm Bill has been bogged down in Washington as lawmakers continue to squabble over competing budget proposals. Even so, the Senate may see Farm Bill action in May.

The budget bill expected to come out of the U.S. House, which is sponsored by Republicans, could ask for USDA cuts of as much as $180 billion. Observers expect that plan, however, won’t be able to gain any traction in the Democratic-controlled Senate. That means budget negotiations will stagger on.

With so much uncertainty in funding levels, Farm Bill legislation has stalled, according to Chris Clayton, DTN’s Ag policy editor. He spoke with House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, a Democrat from Minnesota.

The farm-bill process in the House is complicated by budget reconciliation, Peterson said. The House Agriculture Committee will have to do explain by April 27 how it will meet its reconciliation target.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), often known as Food Stamps, is overseen by the Farm Bill. Republicans are said to be targeting SNAP for large cuts as part of budget cutting methods.

The federal budget will obviously have a huge impact on agriculture legislation and the Farm Bill will gradually get more clarified as the budget situation finds its shape. It's unclear how long that might take, but Peterson told Clayton he expects farm legislation on the docket soon.

Clayton quoted Peterson as saying that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow indicated the Senate could have a floor debate on the Farm Bill in the coming months.

"Apparently (Senate Majority Leader Harry) Reid has given her a week of floor of time in May I guess," Peterson said. "So they are shooting to try to get out of here by Memorial Day, through the floor."

Looking for more information on the Farm Bill? Check out our special report.