Tomorrow Republican Congressman Steve King and Democratic Senator Tom Harkin will meet for the first time with the 38 other members of a House-Senate “conference committee” appointed to come up with a Farm Bill compromise.
“I’m glad that we have two Iowans that are conferees,” King says. “We are now and have been for some weeks working to line up those issues that we disagree between the House and the Senate and line them up in order of difficulty.”
According to King, the dispute over federal funding for “food stamps” is the most difficult to resolve. House Republicans have voted to cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by $40 billion. The bipartisan Farm Bill that cleared the Democratically-led Senate in June called for $4 billion in cuts to the food stamp program — 10 times less. King has asked House Republicans leaders to present him some “creative ideas” for bridging that 36-billion dollar divide.
“I don’t want to tip any hand on it. I chair the subcommittee that deals with nutrition and so what I say — it might affect the negotiations,” King says. “But I want to get to the end of this thing and I want a bill on the president’s desk I said before the snow flies. I know in part of Iowa I’m already too late on that, but we’re going to try to get this done and I think we get it done by the end of the year.”
There are a variety of other proposals that are unresolved as well, like a so-called “payment cap” that bars farmers with an adjusted gross income above $750,000 from getting federal subsidies to buy crop insurance. King is urging other members of the conference committee to negotiate the details in private rather than in public.
“Let’s sit down and see if we figure out how we can agree before any of us take such a public position that we can’t compromise or back up from it,” King says.
If the Farm Bill doesn’t pass congress by January 1st, farm policies will revert to the 1949 Farm Bill and the first impact consumers would see would be a dramatic increase in milk prices. King made his comments during a weekend appearance on Iowa Public Television’s “Iowa Press” program.