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Asked about the conference committee’s chances, Klobuchar and Walz each issued statements expressing hope that both chambers would seize the chance to do what is in the nation’s best interest.
“After the reckless government shutdown that did great damage to our economy and the American people’s faith in democracy, the farm bill presents a fantastic opportunity to cut through the partisan noise in Washington and accomplish something big, not just for rural America, but for the entire country,” Walz said.
Klobuchar signaled that she is not inclined to bend much on food stamp reductions.
“The cuts in the House-passed nutrition bill go too far,” she said. “They would hurt the most vulnerable across the country and also jeopardize the passage of the farm bill.”
The other big sticking point is a dairy program that pays dairy farmers to limit production when market prices dip. The Senate bill includes the dairy program. The House bill does not.
Peterson, who strongly backs supply management, says the program’s fate could be determined by a single vote in the conference committee.
What may be shaping up is another painful episode in which the Senate and House cannot agree on the same bill even if the conference committee can.
In that case, the existing farm bill will need to be extended to keep from reverting to 1949 laws that could play havoc with the agriculture market, especially milk prices. But extension also leaves in place unpopular programs such as direct government payments to farmers to subsidize their crops.
Or this could go down like the shutdown/debt ceiling fight, in which House Republican leaders had to rely on the support of more Democrats than Republicans to reopen the government and protect the country’s credit rating.
An unwillingness by House GOP hard-liners to give in substantially on food stamp cuts might force House leaders to depend on Democrats to pass a farm bill, Shapiro predicted.
“If the House won’t move closer to the mainstream,” he said, “it will be forced into these kinds of choices.”
Jim Spencer • 202-383-6123