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‘Big Four’ Goal Is Farm Bill as Quickly as Possible

The Republican chairmen and senior Democrats on the Senate and House Agriculture Committees, known collectively as the “Big Four,” met on Thursday and agreed “to get a farm bill finished as quickly as possible.” Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts brushed aside a broadcaster’s question about whether the Senate would prevail over the House on the issue of work requirements for SNAP.

“I wouldn’t say it’s going to look either way,” Roberts said on the AgriTalk program. “We’re going to work that out. … We have to do that.” The major issue for negotiators is the House proposal to require an estimated 7 million “work-capable” adults ages 18 to 59 to work at least 20 hours a week or spend equivalent time in job training or workfare to qualify for food stamps. The Senate farm bill focuses on SNAP integrity but does not change eligibility rules.

“We look forward to working together to get a farm bill finished as quickly as possible, and we’re committed to finding solutions to resolve the differences,” said Roberts, House Agriculture Chairman Michael Conaway, Senator Debbie Stabenow, and Representative Collin Peterson in a joint statement. “We must keep working to provide American farmers and families with the certainty and predictability they need and deserve.”

Roberts said he and Conaway met separately with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday. Roberts told a Bloomberg reporter that Ryan agreed that the paramount issue is enacting the farm bill before the 2014 law expires on September 30.

Produced with FERN, non-profit reporting on food, agriculture, and environmental health.
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