Farm Bill Conferees

On Saturday, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) named farm bill conferees. The Republicans appointed 17 members, including 12 Agriculture Committee members, two Foreign Affairs Committee members, two Ways and Means Committee members, and one member to represent the Republican leadership. Republican conferees are: Agriculture Committee – Chairman Frank Lucas (OK), Reps. Mike Conaway (TX), Rick Crawford (AR), Rodney Davis (IL), Jeff Denham (CA), Steve King (IA), Randy Neugebauer (TX), Kristi Noem (SD), Martha Roby (AL), Mike Rogers (AL), Austin Scott (GA), and Glenn Thompson (PA); Foreign Affairs Committee – Reps. Tom Marino (PA) and Ed Royce (CA); and Ways and Means Committee – Reps. David Camp (MI) and Sam Johnson (TX).

Rep. Steve Southerland (FL) was named the leadership conferee. Rep. Southerland has led the charge on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) reform through the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act (H.R. 3102), which passed the House last month. By naming Rep. Southerland as a conferee, the House Republican leadership is sending a strong signal that major reforms to SNAP remain a priority issue in the farm bill negotiations. Rep. Southerland’s involvement will likely stall farm bill negotiations, as the congressman will demand specific cuts and restrictions to SNAP that Democrats will continue to strongly oppose.

Despite his advocacy efforts to be appointed, which we discussed in last week’s Agriculture and Food post on the Capital Thinking blog, House leadership did not appoint Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) as a conferee.

The Democrats appointed 12 members, with nine Agriculture Committee members, one Foreign Affairs Committee member, one Committee on Ways and Means member, and one member to represent the Democratic leadership. Conferees are: Agriculture Committee – Ranking Member Collin Peterson (MN), Reps. Jim Costa (CA), Suzan DelBene (WA), Jim McGovern (MA), Mike McIntyre (NC), Gloria Negrete McLeod (CA), Kurt Schrader (OR), Filemon Vela (TX), and Timothy Walz (MN); Foreign Affairs Committee – Eliot Engel (NY); and Committee on Ways and Means – Sander Levin (MI).

Rep. Marcia Fudge (OH) was appointed to be the leadership conferee. Rep. Fudge serves as ranking member of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Department Operations, Oversight and Nutrition. She is also chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus and has been a zealous advocate on the protection of SNAP, along with Rep. McGovern.

Among the Democrats expected to be named conferees, Rep. David Scott (GA), the General Farm Commodities and Risk Management Subcommittee’s ranking member, was not appointed. With the absence of Reps. Goodlatte and Scott from farm bill negotiations, Ranking Member Collin Peterson may be handed a victory in stripping the House’s farm bill language that would decouple supply management and margin insurance in the dairy program.

Farm Bill and Debt Ceiling Negotiations

As debt ceiling negotiations continue, we do not expect Chairman Lucas to be supportive of efforts to include the farm bill in a debt ceiling or spending package. He is concerned that the grand bargain would include the farm bill’s savings, but not the policies attached to it.

In the Senate, however, Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), a member of the Agriculture Committee, has placed on the negotiating table the idea of including the farm bill in a grand bargain package. Sen. Hoeven thinks this is a viable option because of the short timeline for the farm bill negotiation to be completed, and the debt ceiling and spending bills are guaranteed, moving legislative vehicles. The deadline for both chambers to pass a farm bill and have it signed into law is December 31, although the 2008 farm bill expired at the end of September.

The Congressional Budget Office has scored the Senate farm bill at $18 billion in cost-savings over 10 years, the House “agriculture-only” bill at $12.9 billion in cost-savings over 10 years, and the House nutrition bill at $39 billion in cost-savings over 10 years. In total, the House’s farm bill would save $49 billion over a decade.


USDA Website

The United States Department of Agriculture is now allowing limited access to its website. The department has brought back its home page and websites for a limited number of agencies, primarily those dealing with public health issues. The website and its social media channels will not be updated until Congress has reached an agreement on the government shutdown.