Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kansas) told reporters this week there is no date set for the release of his chamber’s version of the 2018 Farm Bill. Chairman Roberts and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) are engaged in bipartisan negotiations to deliver a 2018 Farm Bill that will garner more Democratic support than the House version of the bill which was passed out of Committee earlier this month with only Republican support.
Chairman Roberts’ statement came the same week the Republican Study Committee (RSC), a group of conservative House Republicans, released a budget proposal for Fiscal 2019 with dramatic cuts to farm bill programs. The RSC’s budget proposal underlines the challenge House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas) faces in the lower chamber. Chairman Conaway’s Farm Bill would make dramatic reforms to food stamp programs but several other Farm Bill staples, including crop insurance and premium subsidies, remain deeply unpopular among conservatives. Conaway is working with Republican leadership in the House to stave off conservative attacks on the Farm Bill’s commodity programs and crop insurance.
Conservative think tanks such as Americans for Prosperity, the Heritage Foundation, and the R Street Institute are advocating against the bill but conservative members are signaling their potential support for the Agriculture and Nutrition Act. On Wednesday, Rep. Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, told reporters he was open to supporting the bill. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) is selling the bill as conservatives’ only opportunity to reform the food stamp program. If Ryan and Conaway find enough votes to pass the House, the 2018 Farm Bill is expected to reach the floor for a vote the week of May 7th.