The most important thing to know about the bipartisan farm bill developed by leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee is how much it doesn’t change. But that means there are going to be some differences that will have to worked with House negotiators in the months ahead.
The draft bill text is expected to be released at some point today. Release of the draft was held up yesterday while committee leaders tried to deal with some last-minute scoring issues.
But we already know there are some important differences with the House bill, based on interviews with sources familiar with what is in the measure:
SNAP: The Senate bill makes no changes to food stamp work requirements or to income eligibility limits. The House makes major changes in both. This is by far the biggest obstacle to getting agreement on a new farm bill this year.
Conservation: The Senate bill would increase the Conservation Reserve Program to 25 million acres, not the 29 million acres the House wants. The Senate also leaves the Conservation Stewardship Program intact. The House bill would kill it.
Payment limits: The Senate bill would tighten farm program eligibility by reducing the adjusted gross income limit from $900,000 to $700,000. The bill could go even farther on payment rules if Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa., persuades the committee to adopt an amendment restricting the number of payment recipients a farm can have.
Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts, who briefed GOP committee members on the draft bill yesterday morning, said that anxiety about U.S. trade policy makes it critical to enact a new farm bill that provides farmers with “predictability and uncertainty.”
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