| WASHINGTON, July 15
WASHINGTON, July 15 The U.S. Senate is ready to
start conference proceedings to finalize a new farm bill but the
House of Representatives has not sent its version of the bill
for consideration, the chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture
Committee said on Monday.
"I'm very concerned that the process start moving this
week," Senator Debbie Stabenow said, noting that there are just
24 scheduled legislative days in the Senate before the current
The Republican-controlled House on Thursday narrowly passed
a farm bill that stripped out the parts that cover food stamps
for poor Americans, the costliest part of the bill, over a veto
threat from President Barack Obama.
Four days later it has not sent that bill to the Senate,
drawing Monday's rebuke from Stabenow.
"We can't go to conference unless we have something that
relates to the farm bill from the House," Stabenow, a Michigan
Democrat, told reporters on a conference call. "We fully
expected to receive it in the Senate right away."
Under the conference process, lawmakers from the Senate and
House typically meet to work out differences between their
respective versions of a bill. But Stabenow said she would be
open to other approaches.
The Democratic-run Senate passed its version of the farm
bill on June 10 - a five-year, $500 billion measure that would
expand taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance and make small cuts to
food stamp funding.
Stabenow ruled out passing a farm bill that did not include
food stamps. "We could not pass that through the Senate, nor
would the president sign that kind of bill," she said.
Food stamp payments would continue without a farm bill,
because funding comes through the appropriations process. But
Democrats have said the House strategy is to isolate food stamps
for larger cuts by making them subject to annual funding.
The current farm bill was extended once before, over the new
year, and will expire on Sept. 30 without passage of a new
version or a second extension. At that point U.S. farm policy
would revert to 1949 "permanent law," which among other things
would lead to a doubling of milk prices in U.S. grocery stores.
"Given the strange process we have had in the House, I would
support any fair and open process that gets us a bipartisan,
comprehensive farm bill," Stabenow said. "We're not going to
negotiate with the extreme elements of the House who basically
believe we should not support agriculture."
The Senate also passed a bipartisan farm bill in 2012, when
the House version was never brought to a vote.
"This feels like 'Groundhog Day,' the movie, to me. Every
day we get up and do the farm bill again," said Stabenow.
(Reporting by Ros Krasny; Editing by Leslie Adler)