WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate was expected to vote this week to move the 2018 farm bill to conference. The mission of the conference committee will be to resolve differences between the Agriculture and Nutrition Act of 2018, which was passed on a party-line vote by the House of Representatives on June 21, and the bipartisan Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, which was passed by the Senate on June 28 by an overwhelming vote of 86 to 11. If the conference is successful, an agreed common farm bill would be submitted to both houses of Congress, and if passed by each body, sent to President Donald Trump for his signature. The current farm act, the Agricultural Act of 2014, which authorizes the nation’s principal farm and rural support and nutrition assistance programs, expires on Sept. 30.
The House of Representatives on July 18 voted to send the farm bill to conference, and following that vote, Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California named 47 Republican and Democratic members as House conferees.
Mr. Ryan named 29 Republican House conferees. Thirteen Republican members of the House Committee on Agriculture were among the selected conferees, including Representative K. Michael Conaway of Texas, the agriculture committee’s chairman.
“We see this farm bill as pivotal for building a sturdier ladder of opportunity in America,” Mr. Ryan said. “With all this momentum in our economy, there could not be a better time to help more people move from welfare to work. This is a chance to close the skills gap, better equip our workforce, and support much-needed development in rural communities. I look forward to working with Chairman Conaway and all of these lawmakers on these vital reforms.”
Ms. Pelosi named 18 Democratic members to the conference committee, including 10 members of the agriculture committee led by Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the ranking member on the agriculture committee. In announcing the Democratic conferees, Ms. Pelosi said, “With America’s farmers, producers and ranchers facing plummeting prices, rising retaliatory tariffs and a struggling farm economy, we need a real robust, bipartisan farm bill more than ever. While House Republicans chose to advance a destructive and partisan bill that fails farmers and hungry families, this conference will provide an opportunity to return to the grand bipartisan tradition of robust farm bills. Our diverse and dynamic House Democratic conferees will bring the strength of their values and wide-ranging expertise to the work of hammering out a bipartisan farm bill that honors our responsibility to the men and women of agriculture and hungry families.”
Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, ranking member on the committee, issued a joint statement welcoming the decision of the House of Representatives to proceed to a farm bill conference. The senators said, “We are pleased to see the House move ahead on the farm bill. In order to be successful in passing a final bill, the conference committee must put politics aside and focus on the needs of our farmers, families, and rural communities. We are eager to go to conference, so we can move quickly to provide certainty for American farmers and families. Rural America is counting on us to get this right.”
Following a Senate vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York were expected to name members to represent the Senate in the conference committee. Mr. Roberts said he expected nine senators to be named to the conference committee.