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House to debate farm bill this week

The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to take up the farm bill this week. Despite being opposed to House Ag Ranking Member Collin Peterson’s dairy program, House Speaker John Boehner has revealed that he will vote in support of a farm bill nonetheless.

House Ag Chair Frank Lucas says progress was made in the days leading up to June 17, and is pleased that Speaker Boehner lent his support to the bill.

Assuming the whip count (an informal poll by party leaders) shows that the farm bill is close to the 218 votes needed for final passage, Lucas says the farm bill should come up on the House floor this week. Today, Lucas hopes the Rules Committee will put out a call for amendments, of which he expects between 30 and 40.

Anticipated to be the most contentious farm bill issue not just during House debate, but also in conference, is the House’s level of nutrition cuts. Reducing nutrition title spending by $20.5 billion over the next decade is particularly unpalatable to Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow, who has claimed that as many as 2 million people will be dropped from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) if the House’s cuts remain intact.

After both farm bills are put together in conference, the separate chambers will vote on the resulting conference report. House Ag Ranking Member Peterson estimates that, if all goes well, a bill could hit the president’s desk by August.

Meantime Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley says House passage of a farm bill is paramount given last year’s re-election debacle and the unsatisfying extension of 2008 farm policy that resulted.

He agrees that the biggest issue will be the nutrition title, but he says the House will have to overcome that problem or face a worse alternative.

I think it’s touch and go; I think it’s going to be difficult not to pass a farm bill, because a one-year extension maintaining direct payments again for another year is going to be really, pretty difficult to explain.

Audio with House Ag Chair Frank Lucas is provided courtesy of Ron Hays with the Radio Oklahoma Network