Farm bill faces another round of action

With the current farm bill scheduled to end in September, both House and Senate members are trying to find common ground. After a failed attempt last month in the House to advance a new farm bill, GOP leadership face a June 22 deadline to bring the measure, H.R. 2, up for a second vote without changes.

The defeat of the bill last month was attributed, in part, to pressure from conservatives to take a vote on a controversial immigration measure. House leadership is planning to reconsider the proposal later in June.

An unfulfilled demand to vote first on the immigration measure, which would make changes to the H-2A agricultural guest worker program, led conservative House Freedom Caucus members to withhold support for the farm bill.

Democrats withheld support for the bill because of the measure’s proposed changes to the food stamp program and some Republican moderates opposed it for the same reason. The timing for a second farm bill vote is uncertain given divisions in the republican party.

In the Senate, agriculture committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) has said the farm bill could be released as early as June 6, with a committee markup the following week. However, that may prove ambitious, since Roberts acknowledged the release timing is a “moving target.” Republicans are working on a bipartisan bill that would not include a major overhaul of the food stamp program.

Regional divisions are more likely than partisan politics to stir up controversy in the Senate. A proposal from Sens. John Thune (R-SD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) has gathered attention as it would likely increase subsidies for Midwestern corn and soybean growers while reducing those for Southern producers of rice, cotton and peanuts.