Friday afternoon the House approved by voice vote a motion to go to conference with the Senate marking another significant step in the long process of passing a new farm bill. Saturday conferees were officially named, which hopefully sets up the beginning of the end.
Earlier in the day during the Rules Meeting consideration House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) said although constant dialogue has laid the groundwork has between House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders, a formal conference will allow the two chambers to "iron out big challenging differences" that exist in writing a new farm bill.
"Ultimately there are just issues that require a full conference, a full airing of the process to be determined," he said.
Lucas said what some would consider "preconference" has allowed items that are similar or close to agree upon and he said they've "accomplished good amount of that."
"There are challenging issues yet to overcome, but we have a solid team of negotiators in place. I am confident we can reach consensus and send a five-year farm bill to the president," Lucas said.
Friday members also passed by a voice vote a resolution urging House negotiators to support a Senate-passed provision that would trim the level of crop insurance subsidies for wealthy farmers with an adjusted gross income of $750,000 or more.
Lucas expressed some reluctance regarding the resolution because of concerns that it could shrink the overall insurance pool and runs the risk of rising costs for everyone.
Another resolution was approved which would call on House negotiators to seek language that eliminates import limits on sugar, which supporters say would make it easier to manage sugar supplies and help ensure more reasonable prices.
House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) said these provisions were ‘unprecedented,’ in part because the two GOP motions will essentially ask the House to consider positions it has already rejected.
"Conferees are committed to working together and getting a farm bill done but bringing divisive resolutions to a vote and appointing conferees outside the Agriculture Committee has made our jobs a lot harder," Peterson said.
Saturday, House Speaker John Boehner officially named the members to the House conference. They include Lucas and his five subcommittee chairs – Reps. Michael Conaway (R., Texas), Rick Crawford (R., Ark.), Steve King (R., Iowa), Austin Scott (R., Ga.) and Glenn Thompson (R., Pa.)
Others on the Republican roster include Reps. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), Randy Neugebauer (R., Texas), Martha Roby (R., Ala.), Kristi Noem (R., S.D.), Rodney Davis (R., Ill.), Jeff Denham (R., Ca.) and Rep. Steve Southerland (R., Fla.).
For Democrats Peterson is joined by Reps. Mike McIntyre (D., N.C.), Jim Costa (D., Calif.), Tim Walz (D., Minn.), Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.), Jim McGovern (D., Mass.), Suzan DelBene (D., Wash.), Gloria Negrete McLeod (D., Calif.) and Filemon Vela (D., Texas).
On behalf of the House Foreign Affairs Committee conferees are Reps. Ed Royce (R., Calif.), Tom Marino (R., Pa.), and Eliot Engel (D., N.Y.).
For the House Ways and Means Committee Republicans serving include Rep. Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and Sam Johnson (R., Texas). Ranking member Sandy Levin (D., Mich.) was also named.
The Senate Agriculture Committee leaders both released statements Friday afternoon welcoming the House's latest move. "
"Senators worked across the aisle to overwhelmingly pass bipartisan Farm Bills the last two years in a row," Senate Agriculture Committee chairwoman Debbie Stabenow said. "If that same bipartisanship endures in the conference committee, we will cut tens of billions of dollars in unnecessary spending, make major reforms to improve crop insurance and strengthen other risk management tools, streamline and strengthen conservation and nutrition programs, and create jobs by investing in rural America."
For Democrats farm bill conferees had already been named. They include Stabenow, Sens. Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), Tom Harkin (D., Iowa), Max Baucus (D., Mont.), Sherrod Brown (D., Ohio), Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) and Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) For Republicans it includes Ag Committee ranking member Thad Cochran (R., Miss.) and Sens. Pat Roberts (R., Kan.), Saxby Chambliss (R., Ga.), John Boozman (R., Ark.), and John Hoeven (R., N.D.).