The U.S. House of Representatives Tuesday delivered the Farm Bill to the Senate, thereby leaving the door open for a conference on the bill.
Chairwoman of the Senate Ag Committee Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., made the announcement on the House floor, adding that it would be her intent to request a conference on the bill Wednesday.
"I want to congratulate the House for sending their version of the farm bill to us this morning, so now we have it," she said.
Stabenow urged fellow lawmakers to come forward with any potential issues they may have with the bill before it goes to conference.
"If there is a concern, I would appreciate members approach me directly or Senator Cochran directly, because this is an opportunity for us to move forward and to actually put together a bill that affects 16 million people in the country that work in agriculture," Stabenow urged.
House delivers bill to Senate; Senate now has opportunity to conference bill
Earlier this week, she noted that because the House had not yet reported their version of the bill to the Senate, a conference wouldn't be able to move forward. It is unclear, however, if House lawmakers will approve a conference due to hefty inconsistencies with the nutrition title.
Stabenow said she was "pretty shocked" that the House didn't report the bill as soon as it was passed last Thursday, questioning the House's "farm-only" take on the bill.
"It appears that leadership wants to try to pass a Republican-only nutrition title; and one question we have, strategically, is why in the world since they passed the rest of the farm bill with only Republican votes why didn't they attach their Republican nutrition title to the bill last week and send it over?" she asked.
There has been some speculation that the Senate will push for quick action on a conference to keep the House from passing a nutrition bill and completing the farm bill – without one, Senate negotiators have an upper hand with floor-approved legislation.
"We're prepared with what has already been passed to begin the process. Time is of the essence and there's parts of the bill, frankly, that are similar, parts of the bill that are different, but there are important … areas where the House and Senate are very close – so we want to get to work and get this done," Stabenow said.
Congress has a shrinking timeline to address farm bill issues, as August recess closes in.
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