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House Republican farm bill conferee names surface

Uphill battle remains on farm bill with commodity title woes added to deep divisions over nutrition spending.

While the House is dealing with budget and debt ceiling woes, the names of most-likely members of who will be named on behalf of the House to conference differences with the Senate surfaced.

Feedstuffs Beltway sources confirmed that the Republican roster will include predominantly agricultural members. However, it will include Florida Rep. Steve Southerland as a representative of the GOP leadership.

During the first time the House brought its bill to the floor, Southerland's amendment attaching work requirements to receiving SNAP benefits for able-bodied adults was said to be the poison pill that derailed final passage in the House and infuriated House Democrats.  

The Republican roster being circulated includes 13 members. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) is joined by 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 list include Reps. Mike Rogers (R., Ala.), Martha Roby (R., Ala.), Kristi Noem (R., S.D.), Rodney Davis (R., Ill.), Jeff Denham (R., Ca.) and Southerland.

House Speaker John Boehner has not formally named the conferees, and isn't expected to until a deal is struck on the debt ceiling and government shutdown fiasco.

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D., Minn.) was reportedly disappointed in the naming of Southerland and said it will only make the negotiations more difficult. The House has passed a nutrition title with $40 billion in cuts over 10 years whereas the Senate has only approved a bill with $4 billion in cuts over the same time period.

Steve Kopperud, executive vice president of Policy Directions, said although progress is moving on establishing the conference committee, it's unlikely they're going to be rushing into a small room to iron out differences.

And those differences are becoming greater, rather than less, in recent weeks. The commodity title for instance has gained more attraction in the last month with concerns over trade implications and impact on planting decisions. "The commodity title is a huge barrier and much more than people thought a month ago," Kopperud said.

Kopperud noted that farm bill conferences typically do revert to more regional rather than partisan differences. Many of the Midwest commodity groups have criticized how the House and somewhat the Senate version tilts in favor of southern crops with high target prices for crops such as peanuts.

The question remains, "How do you maintain at least some base of support for a broader bill if people feel like they're being shafted?" Kopperud said of the spats between southern and Midwest Congressional members.

"The worst thing you can do is have a conference report that they attempt to finalize at the end of the day and a third of the conferees don't sign it," he said.


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