April 20, 2014

Negotiations underway on new Farm Bill (AUDIO)

Negotiations have begun on a new five-year farm bill with high hopes that Congress can approve legislation by the end of the year.

Sen. Deb Fischer says Nebraska farmers need the certainty of a five-year farm bill.

“I am hopeful that we’re going to get something passed. We all know that we need to get a farm bill passed. It’s important to the economy of the state of Nebraska,” Fischer tells Nebraska reporters.

The House-Senate negotiating committee is large, but Fischer says it had to be to represent all the various interests in the legislation.

Sen. Mike Johanns says the big issue is the food stamp program.

The two sides are far apart. The Senate bill cuts $4 billion from the nutrition program over the next 10 years. The House couldn’t reach agreement on the nutrition program and actually left it out of the bill that passed the chamber, but House negotiators will press for up to $40 billion in cuts.

Johanns doesn’t see the Senate accepting anything close to the House position.

“But, at the end of the day, there’s going to be cuts to this program and there’s going to be cuts to the farm bill,” Johanns tells Nebraska reporters during his conference call. “No matter how you slice it and dice it, this farm bill will save $20 to $30 billion, maybe more.”

That gives negotiators added incentive, according to Johanns, who points out that any savings that can be achieved in the Farm Bill could ease pressure on negotiations now underway to reduce the federal budget.

AUDIO: Brent Martin reports [:50]