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POLITICO reports:

The farm bill was teed up and ready to go, but there is just one hitch: what to do about the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

A meeting last week between House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway and a group of Democrats on the panel over proposed SNAP changes ended in an "impasse," according to ranking member Collin Peterson.

Peterson told the American Ag Network that if the farm bill is introduced in its current form, Democrats are likely to oppose it during a markup tentatively scheduled for March 20, threatening a pledge for a bipartisan process, Pro Ag's Catherine Boudreau and Helena Bottemiller Evich reported.

Requiring work: Conaway and Peterson are continuing to negotiate over the SNAP proposal, which would expand the number of adults - including able-bodied adults without dependents, known in jargon as ABAWDs - who are subject to work requirements. In part, this would be done by raising the work requirement to age 65, according to committee spokeswoman Rachel Millard. ABAWDs aged 18-49 can now receive food stamps for three months as long as they work or are in an employment and training program. Under Conaway's proposal, they would have to meet work requirements until age 65.

Money saved as a result of those changes would be invested in SNAP education and training programs to provide recipients with work opportunities. States would maintain their authority to decide who can be exempted from existing work requirements - those may include retirees, people with temporary injuries or those who live in areas where fewer employment options are available.

Still a path for bipartisanship? In a statement, Conaway told POLITICO that he and Peterson have continually worked together to develop the farm bill, and is proud of their effort. "I have always intended and continue to hope that this farm bill will be a bipartisan bill. There is no reason that it should not be and every reason it should. Our farmers and ranchers are hurting," he said.

Conaway added: "In regard to SNAP, I successfully led efforts to prevent cuts to the farm bill, including to SNAP, last year and my position has not changed. That is a matter of public record. I have made it clear that policy, not budget cuts, will govern the writing of this farm bill, including SNAP.

"In fact, not one person would be forced off SNAP due to the work or training requirements we have been discussing. Not one," Conaway said. "Our approach is not even remotely like the approach taken in 2013 that caused the farm bill to fail."

Conaway was referring to the fallout from an amendment offered by then-Rep. Steve Southerland (R-Fla.), which would have allowed states to impose stricter work requirements on SNAP recipients without also including funding for education or training opportunities. It would have also allowed states to keep 50 percent of the savings from lower SNAP participation.

Political football: Conaway also said some members of the Democratic leadership may not want Congress to pass a farm bill to "score points" ahead of the midterm elections in November. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), ranking member of the nutrition subcommittee, recently told anti-hunger advocates that Democrats could pass a better farm bill after November. He encouraged those groups to try to defeat the measure if its passage would worsen hunger in America. McGovern told POLITICO on Friday that he still hadn't seen the nutrition title of the farm bill.

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