Members of the conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate versions of a farm bill spelled out their priorities during opening statements Wednesday. The 41 members, including Representative Randy Neugebauer, Republican of Lubbock, laid out a wide range of often conflicting positions.
Neugebauer said his priorities for a new bill are simple.
"We need a long term policy in place so that our farmers and ranchers can make informed business decisions," he said. "We need to make market-based policies so that we can respond to fluctuations in production and price without dictating what we produce."
One of the most contentious issues is going to involve reform of the food stamp, or SNAP, program.
"Why does the safety net need reform?" Neugebauer asked. "Because people are getting tangled up and stuck in it. The House addresses this by ending benefits for individuals that, quite honestly, don't qualify for them. It allows us to save billions of dollars without cutting assistance to families that are actually in need. This isn't about weakening nutrition assistance, but rather it's about making the program sustainable over the long term."
The differences between the House and Senate versions are significant. The nutrition bill passed by the House calls for $39 billion in cuts to SNAP over the next ten years. The Senate version only cuts $4.5 billion over the same period.