On July 18, the Senate accepted a unanimous consent resolution that formally requested the Senate to move to conference on the Farm Bill. In sending the Farm Bill to the House, the Senate had to place its text into the shell of the House-passed bill, which the House sent to the chamber earlier this week, because the Senate text contains finance measures that the House cannot consider, as financing measures must originate in the House. Thus, the Senate Farm Bill will have a new House bill number going forward. Chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) also requested the appointment of Senate conferees consisting of seven Democrats and five Republicans.
Although informal talks have been happening between the Senate and the House on conferencing the Farm Bill, it does not appear as if the House will initiate formal steps to conference the bill until the House passes a nutrition bill. It appears that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has convened a working group of 16-20 members, including him, to assist in drafting a nutrition bill. The members of the working group include: Reps. Frank Lucas (R-OK); Marsha Blackburn (R-TN); Renee Ellmers (R-NC); Bob Goodlatte (R-VA); Lynn Jenkins (R-KS); Jim Jordan (R-OH); Steve King (R-IA); Tom Marino (R-PA); Kristi Noem (R-SD); Tom Reed (R-NY); Keith Rothfus (R-PA); Steve Scalise (R-LA); Steve Southerland (R-FL); Marlin Stutzman (R-IN); and Todd Young (R-IN). Thus far, no Democrats have been included in the drafting of the bill. As discussed in last week’s edition of Capital Thinking, this nutrition bill would like to overhaul the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
On the Democratic side, 28 Democrats, including Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), sent a letter on July 18 to the Republican leadership calling for a hearing on the nutrition title. Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) has indicated that no such hearing has taken place.
We expect that there will be no further movement on agriculture-related legislation, including the FY 2014 Agriculture appropriations bill, until a nutrition bill has been put up for a vote on the floor. Given the timeline of events, it is highly likely that the Farm Bill will expire on September 30, 2013.