The conferees have agreed to food stamp (SNAP) funding cuts much closer to the Senate’s $4 billion proposal than the House’s $40 billion over a decade.

That, says Johnson, is hardly a surprise. “Everyone has known that would be the case. There’s no way the Senate would pass a farm bill unless the cuts to SNAP are low. That’s because, in the House, (passage) will require a lot of Democratic votes. That means the only option the conference committee has ever had is to do something that minimizes the depth of cuts to the nutrition title.”

The commodity title “is very close. As expected, they put some elements of the House bill with some of the Senate’s. That’s what is taking time to score.”

How might the South react to what Johnson understands the conference has come up with?

“I think the South will be okay. We understand they are largely following the House version on the prices. NFU likes the idea of target prices and we also like the idea of planted (acreage) – paying for what farmers are actually doing on their farm rather than what they did 30 years ago.

 

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“We understand they’ll closely follow the House prices. But instead of using planted acres, they’ll use some other calculation – perhaps a combination of bases and updating bases that will be permitted. Hopefully, that will mean farmers will receive payments based more on recent years.”

Considering the staunch position of many House Republicans regarding SNAP cuts in the run up to the conference, will the House be able to pass a farm bill with less than $10 billion in cuts?

“Again, the only way the House passes a new farm bill is with a significant number of Democrats. When the House bill was passed in two pieces, there wasn’t a single Democratic vote for either.

“We also know that until the House doubled down on the (SNAP) cuts, they couldn’t get the 60 or 70 Tea Party Republicans to vote for anything anyway.

“Remember, when the first farm bill was killed on the floor (early in the summer), it was largely the Tea Party folks that voted for all these amendments to put deeper cuts on SNAP. Then, they turned around and voted against the very bill they’d just amended.

“So, those guys aren’t going to vote for a deal no matter what – and everyone knows that. Boehner knows more than anyone else that the extreme right wing of his caucus has been unruly from Day One and is unwilling to support any compromise on nearly any bill, not just the farm bill.”

There’s still a sizable, moderate Republican contingency in the House. That group, along with the Democrats, “has always been the sweet spot needed to pass a new farm bill. That’s what the conferees are focused on.”

One of the contentious issues that has emerged during the conference committee is Country of Origin Labeling (COOL), something NFU is strongly behind.

 

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“Consumers overwhelmingly support the COOL law. They want to know where their food is coming from. We’re in court, right now, fending off big packers and foreign interests who’d prefer not allowing consumers to know where their meat products, in particular, come from.”

Johnson says U.S. citizens should consider filling their holiday dinner tables with U.S.-produced fare. “We’re proud of what we produce as farmers and ranchers. It’s important consumers are aware of COOL and being able to ensure what they purchase is home-grown.”