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House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) initially announced on November 17 that bipartisan progress was being made on the farm bill. Lucas further desired that a framework be set up when legislators met again on November 21 for the purpose of passing a House farm bill conference agreement before Congress adjourned for the year on December 13. The current 2008 farm bill expired on October 1st. The bill is up for renewal every five years. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) is the Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman.
Hopes, however, were dashed that a framework agreement be reached after leaders of the House-Senate farm bill conference committee, having met twice on November 21, hit a wall over food stamps cuts and other things.
About the farm bill, it consists of two separate and diverse measures — farm subsidies and food stamps. Together they represent $1 trillion dollars in government spending, with a whopping $750 billion of the trillion going for the food stamp program now know as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).
The U.S. House did rebel earlier in the year when it managed to pass a version of the farm bill which separated food stamps from the agriculture program. It was the first time in nearly 40 years that the House had voted on and passed separate and substantive reform bills governing farm and food stamps. At the first meeting of the Farm Bill Conference Committee on October 30, U.S. Congressman Marlin Stutzman lead a group of 27 House members with its message to keep farm policy and food stamp policy separate.
According to Ed Feulner, past president of the Heritage Foundation, in a November 18th commentary:
It is not surprising that disagreement exists between the House and Senate version of the farm policy measure on how to deliver the safety net to producers. After all, insurance is the most expensive subsidy in the farm program.