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As farm bill expiration nears, lawmakers meet to hash out differences

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Published: Sep. 5, 2018 at 8:28 PM EDT
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Farmers and families could lose benefits they rely on to raise crops and put food on the table. Senators and representatives are scrambling for a compromise before it's too late.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) is leading a group of 47 House members and nine senators in a conference committee.

"We're all hurting. I mean, it's all of agriculture that's involved," said Roberts.

Each lawmaker brought the concerns of their communities to the table in the first and only public meeting Wednesday, from conservation programs to food insecurity.

"I don't say that different issues or different concerns aren't important, but when you finally get down to it you have to pass a bill," said Roberts.

The current Farm Bill expires at the end of this month. That leaves the group with just about nine scheduled workdays to iron out their differences.

A sticking point lays in the House version of the bill: stricter work requirements for what are known as food stamps which is a non-starter for all House Democrats, and most senators on both sides of the aisle.

"Hard choices have got to be made. We know what the choices are. There's no new data that we need to do. We don't need to wait on anything we just need to make them," said Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture.

Conaway says when it comes to food stamp work requirements compromise may be possible, to a point. His counterpart, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Ranking Member of the House Committee on Agriculture, says the group is not there yet.

"It's going to take time. It's just going to take time sitting, listening to each other, talking to each other, staffs working on things," said Peterson.

The leaders say they want the bill is finished within a week, so they can get the legislation to a final vote in the Senate, then in the House.