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Nutrition title fight means difficulty in moving farm bill needle

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  • Nutrition title fight means difficulty in moving farm bill needle
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  • Agriculture groups push hard for new farm bill before Congress returns from August recess. Food stamp spending is proving to be a major issue.

Still several weeks from reconvening after August recess, Congress will arrive back in D.C. with a new farm bill in the balance.

Having already passed new farm legislation and named conferees, the Senate is ready to move on the legislation quickly. That isn’t the case in the House, where conferees are yet to be named and there is a scant nine legislative days before the current extension of the 2008 farm bill expires at the end of September.

Nine days.

The increasingly partisan House faces a massive task in a compressed time frame – a circumstance largely of its own making. To achieve passage of a new farm bill, not only must the House GOP caucus deal with the lingering, potentially deal-killing issue of nutrition program funding, it must also navigate demands of an intransigent Republican wing that has already proven willing to buck and embarrass its leaders.

Full farm bill coverage here.

Nutrition spending and laws governing who is eligible for the programs proved too high a hurdle during the first House farm bill vote early this summer. Several weeks later, in order to pass a farm bill, House leadership had to jettison the nutrition title – in the process trying to kill a 40-year-old rural/urban coalition formed to ensure passage of farm bills -- while enraged Democrats lined up to howl and pound the podium. The second attempt succeeded on a party-line vote.

 

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Here’s the thing: even if conference is reached, the negotiated nutrition program funding cuts that return are likely to be unpalatable for a large portion of the House GOP contingent. That contingent is calling for at least $40 billion in reduced food stamp spending.

And suggestions that that conference can take place without the House passing a nutrition title – something leadership insists won’t happen – don’t take into account that in that circumstance the Senate’s bill will be the starting point for negotiations. The Senate is unlikely to move far from the $4 billion in nutrition program cuts in its farm bill.

This week, Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, said the group wanted to “bring the heat” to move Congress to act on a new farm bill.

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