WASHINGTON — Lawmakers negotiating the terms of a new five-year farm bill have agreed to the size of the bill’s cut to the food stamps program, one of the major sticking points between the House and Senate, Rep. Collin Peterson said Monday.
Peterson told the Fargo Forum a farm bill deal could come before the end of the week, although the legislative calendar is such that any vote on the package would likely happen in January. That’s been the assumed timeline recently, given that the House leaves for a winter recess on Friday.
Peterson didn’t identify how big the food stamp cut would be, according to the Forum, except that it’s “substantially closer to the Senate’s” $4 billion in 10-year cuts than the House’s $40 billion figure.
Peterson guessed that change will still be one of the major issues when the bill goes to House and Senate floors for a vote, which he said could be as early as the second week of January. The deal would have to be passed by the farm bill’s conference committee before heading for a full vote.
“I think it will pass the Senate, but I cannot guarantee you it will pass the House,” Peterson said in a meeting with the Forum’s Editorial Board Monday. “They are not going to be happy with the food stamp cuts.”
Peterson said he’s confident he can secure “yes” votes from at least half of the House Democrats — important if many Republicans, who control the House, balk at the smaller-than-expected food cuts to food stamps.
Food stamp policy has been one of the most contentious parts of the farm bill debate this year, especially in the House. Over the summer, conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats both voted against an original House Agriculture Committee farm bill because of its $20 billion in cuts. House leadership had to double the number to persuade enough Republicans to support the bill and send it to a conference committee with the Senate (Most Democrats had opposed the $20 billion figure as too deep to begin with, and they all voted against the latter bill).
As of last week, conference negotiators — Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Reps. Frank Lucas (R-Ok.) and Peterson, a Democrat — had been closing in on a food stamp agreement, though they’re still waiting on budget scoring from the Congressional Budget Office.
Devin Henry can be reached at email@example.com