WASHINGTON — Negotiators in the Senate and House of Representatives will convene today to begin resolving differences in a long-delayed farm bill. It won’t be easy.
The 41-member panel must bridge a huge divide in the five-year, $500 billion reauthorization bill’s most contentious issue: cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly called food stamps.
The Republican-controlled House passed a bill that would cut food stamps by $39 billion out of a projected $800 billion over 10 years. In addition, the House SNAP provision would require able-bodied adults without children to work or volunteer for 20 hours a week to receive federal assistance.
The Democratic-held Senate’s farm bill also would cut food stamps, but by $4.5 billion over a decade. The Senate plan wouldn’t add work requirements.
“I hope they can find a way to thread the needle,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., one of the conferees. “I hope we can figure it out, because there’s too much riding on passing the farm bill to allow the nutrition title to derail it.”
It’s been a tough slog for the farm bill, which expired last year. Congress extended it through September, hoping to buy more time to reach a deal. If there’s no vote by end of the year, consumers might feel the impact. Dairy supports are set to expire, meaning the cost of milk could jump significantly.