Senate names farm bill conferees

Published on: Aug 2, 2013

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Thursday evening named conferees to reconcile differences in farm bill.

For Democrats it includes Stabenow, Sens. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Max Baucus, D-Mont., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Michael Bennet, D- Colo.

For Republicans it includes Ag Committee ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Sens. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., John Boozman, R-Ark., and John Hoeven, R-N.D.

In a statement Cochran said, “I appreciate Republican Leader McConnell appointing conferees prior to the August recess and setting the stage for us to try to finalize a 2013 farm bill. Reconciling differences between the Senate and House will be a challenge, but it is a job that needs to be done for an important sector of the American and global economy.  I look forward to it."

Cochran added, “We have such a good depth of knowledge on our side of the table with Senator Roberts and Senator Chambliss, both of whom are former heads of the Agriculture Committee.  Senators Boozman and Hoeven are also very knowledgeable and active members of our committee, and I look forward to working with them during conference.”

Within the Senate conferees, the nutrition title differences are the least of their worries. Previous chairman Roberts has been outspoken against the way the commodity title is set up and the way southern commodities are offered preferentially and potentially market-distorting.

Stabenow said House leadership is not expected to name conferees until it decides on a nutrition title.

Thursday, Rep. Tim Walz (D., Minn.) -- the ranking member of House Agriculture subcommittee on conservation, energy, and forestry—led a broad coalition of 50 members of the U.S. House of Representatives in sending a letter to Boehner urging him to take immediate action and convene a Farm Bill conference committee before adjourning for a five-week August recess. With only nine legislative working days scheduled by the Majority for the entire month of September, moving to conference now and allowing Members time to work out an agreement during August is critical to the Farm Bill’s success, a statement from Walz said.

Informal discussions between agricultural leaders have started and will continue, Stabenow said, including a meeting of Senate and House ag committee leaders and their staffs the evening of July 31. But they can't have serious discussions without the full parameters in front of them, most notably the nutrition title.  

"We will not be able to go as far as I would like or expected to go in pre-conferencing," Stabenow said in a call with media Thursday afternoon.