The first public meeting of the Farm Bill conference committee will be held Wednesday afternoon, Oct. 30, and will be chaired by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (Okla.).
The Senate passed its comprehensive Farm Bill in the early summer, while the House passed its farm policy and food aid proposals in two separate measures after a large bloc of conservative lawmakers insisted on splitting the legislation apart. The legislation will be stitched together for the sake of a House-Senate compromise.
The biggest issue of contention will be funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- more commonly known as food stamps. The Senate measure would cut about $4 billion in funding for the program over the next decade, while the House version would slash nearly $40 billion.
Public conference committees are rare, making next week's event notable. The first day of hearings is expected to focus primarily on permitting all 41 lawmakers to make an opening statement, if they so choose. Deeper discussion of the differences in the two measures is expected to occur in the coming weeks.
Congress has until Jan. 1 to pass a new Farm Bill otherwise parts of federal agricultural policy will begin reverting back to 1940s-era laws and price levels.
"The American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) this month shared it's priorities for the sheep industry with conferees including risk management for producers and support of building industry infrastructure for wool and lamb businesses," stated Peter Orwick, ASI executive director.