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Biden, Agriculture committee leaders to discuss farm bill goals

Meeting to follow House floor votes Thursday

House Agriculture Chaimran Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., said he hopes the participants can agree to do a farm bill that is "bipartisan, bicameral, on time and highly effective."
House Agriculture Chaimran Glenn "GT" Thompson, R-Pa., said he hopes the participants can agree to do a farm bill that is "bipartisan, bicameral, on time and highly effective." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The top four farm bill writers and President Joe Biden will meet Thursday to discuss the legislation amid concerns that an impasse in debt ceiling negotiations between the White House and House Republicans could slow progress on the wide-ranging policy bill for agriculture.

Uncertainty over the debt ceiling led House Armed Services Chairman Mike D. Rogers, R-Ala., on Tuesday to indefinitely delay a markup of the fiscal 2024 defense authorization bill. Subcommittees had planned to mark up their sections of the bill Thursday and Friday. 

House Agriculture Chairman Glenn “GT” Thompson, R-Pa., and ranking member David Scott, D-Ga., and Senate Agriculture Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member John Boozman, R-Ark., are scheduled to attend the White House discussion.

Stabenow said the main goal of the meeting of the “four corners,” as the committee leaders are called, is to “have a broader discussion about the farm bill and all the implications for it.”

The discussions will “demonstrate we are working together in a bipartisan way,” Stabenow said.

“We’re interested in hearing the president’s priorities. He’s interested in hearing our priorities,” she said, adding that the legislation will shape land conservation and nutrition programs that are part of Biden’s focus on climate change and reducing hunger.

Thompson said he “would hope to hear a commitment from everyone including the president that we will get this done and done in the manner I’ve been speaking about. Bipartisan, bicameral, on time and highly effective.” He said the meeting will happen after floor votes Thursday.

Boozman also said it was important to get a sense of what Biden wants in a farm bill. He said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is expected to attend the meeting. Boozman said he didn’t think there will be much focus on the debt ceiling talks and implications for the farm bill.

“The reason we’re having the meeting is to discuss the farm bill and the fastest path forward. I think it’s a really good step in the right direction,”  he said. “They can be a big help in pushing things forward.”

Boozman said he planned to mostly listen.

“Depending on what’s said, certainly I have ideas about things. We’re very interested in what the administration feels like they need to have in the bill.”

A spokesperson for Scott confirmed that he plans to be at the meeting.

“He hopes to have a productive conversation with the four corners of the Agriculture Committees and the president that advances their shared goal of passing a strong, effective, and bipartisan farm bill.” the spokesperson said.

The House and Senate Agriculture committees are working to have a replacement bill ready by Sept. 30, when the current farm law expires. 

Stabenow objects to Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., including provisions in the House debt ceiling bill that would increase the number of food stamp recipients subject to time-limited benefits and work requirements by raising the age to 55. The proposed change applies to able-bodied adults without dependents whose benefits are currently limited to three months out of every 36 months if they don’t meet or can’t document compliance with work or training requirements. People ages 18 to 49 are currently subject to those requirements.

The debt ceiling bill also would restrict the ability of states to exempt those recipients from the work requirements and benefit limits.

Opponents say that expanding the age limit could put up to 1 million people at risk of losing food aid. 

Congress put the work requirements and limits on food stamp benefits for able-bodied adults without dependents on hold for much of the COVID-19 pandemic. The requirements resume with the expiration of the national public health emergency on Thursday.

Stabenow said the farm bill is the place to set policy for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program.

The page for the still unreleased draft Senate farm bill is here and the page for the House draft, also not released is here.

Laura Weiss contributed to this report.

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