The on-hold farm bill will continue to stay that way thanks to the House's recent proposal to cut nutrition programs by $40 billion over 10 years, Senate Ag Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said during a conference call Thursday.
The Michigan Democrat has been pushing for a conference on the bill since the House passed half of it – the "farm-only" portion – last month, but with a nutrition proposal now surfacing, she said the path forward has suddenly become less clear.
House leadership made the decision to separate the commodity title and the nutrition titles into two bills following the House's defeat of the full bill in June, citing disagreements over nutrition cuts that Democrats felt were too steep.
"It's now put us in another situation where it’s going to be harder to get a farm bill done," she said, explaining that the House's nutrition portion must be passed before any conference action can be taken.
In contrast, if the House would have appointed conferees before working up a nutrition portion, both chambers could have conferenced the Senate's full bill and the House's farm-only bill.
Pundits speculated after the farm-only farm bill's passage that feet-dragging to name conferees on the House's part could be the case, given that if Republicans had entered into a conference with the farm only bill, they would not have a bargaining chip for the nutrition title.
House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., frustrated with Thursday's House-proposed cuts, said it's all part of a "political messaging" effort – another display of partisan disagreement that has longed plagued the farm bill.
"Adding an additional $20 billion in nutrition cuts, on top of the poison pill nutrition amendments that brought down the Agriculture Committee’s bipartisan farm bill in June, effectively kills any hopes of passing a five-year farm bill this year," Peterson said in a released statement.
"Clearly [the House Republicans] have no interest in compromise or actual legislating," he added.