Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner has assured her that he will appoint members to the House-Senate farm bill conference committee before October ends. With Senate farm bill conference committee members already selected, the naming of house committee members will allow formal farm bill negotiations to begin.
"Both the House and the Senate have passed farm bills, and it is time to begin conference negotiations and finish our work on a five-year farm bill," said Noem, a member of the House Agriculture Committee.
The most recent farm bill, an extension of the 2008 farm bill, expired October 1.
Senate conference committee members are Agriculture Committee Chairperson Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.; Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.; Tom Harkin, D-Iowa; Max Baucus D-Mont.; Serrod Brown, D-Ohio; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; and John Hoeven, R-N.D.
The Senate on June 10 passed its version of the farm bill, which would expand government subsidies for crop insurance, rice and peanuts while making small cuts to food stamps. The legislation is estimated to save about $2.4 billion a year on farm and nutrition programs, including across-the-board cuts that took effect earlier in 2013.
The House passed a different version of the bill on July 11 that did not include food stamp provisions. The House version also included the King Amendment, which would have the potential to nullify more than 150 state laws affecting agriculture, including California's Proposition 2, which aims at ending the use of battery cages for laying hens. The House then on September 19 passed its second piece of the farm bill, the Nutrition Reform and Work Opportunity Act, which specifically addresses food stamp reform and potentially saves $40 billion.
Noem, whose home state was hit by a devastating blizzard, said she has learned first-hand of the harm in a lack of a farm bill, coupled by a lack of USDA staff during the government shutdown.
"I spoke (October 8) at our weekly Republican meeting and described to my colleagues the devastation in western South Dakota that has resulted from the weekend storm. The lack of a comprehensive farm bill leaves all of our producers without the certainty they need. This is especially true for our livestock producers who are currently without the protection of a livestock disaster program. After further conversations with the speaker today, I appreciate him confirming that he plans to move forward and appoint conferees within the next week. We need to move quickly to get a five-year farm bill completed."