The Senate on Thursday easily passed its farm bill by a vote of 86-11, clearing the way for a conference committee to reconcile differences with the House’s version of the sweeping agriculture and nutrition legislation.
The Senate’s bipartisan support of the $867 billion bill, coming a week after the House passed its partisan measure by a margin of just two votes, gives Congress some leeway in its effort to deliver legislation to President Donald Trump to sign before the current farm bill expires on Sept. 30. Reauthorizing the farm bill on time is a priority in farm country, where a prolonged slump in commodity prices has more than halved net farm income in recent years and trade retaliation has already cut into some farmers’ bottom line.
Key differences between the House and Senate bills, primarily in regard to the food stamp program, farm subsidy caps and conservation initiatives, set up potentially contentious negotiations between the lawmakers who will be tasked with melding the two versions into one.
“We know conference committee is going to be a wild and woolly debate as we go forward on a number of things,” Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said on the floor earlier on Thursday.