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UPDATE ON FARM BILL DISCUSSIONS
Agri-Pulse reports:

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts says he wants to have a key meeting today between all four principal farm bill negotiators, but the lawmakers are still deadlocked over several issues and he singled out House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway for the delay in finishing the legislation.

"Three of us think we have a good farm bill," Roberts said about himself, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Rep. Collin Peterson. "We're getting counter-proposals on Title 1 and Title 4 and Title 2. The list keeps growing ... And I'm very troubled by the fact that we have an agreement among three, but we cannot get the fourth one."

The "fourth one," of course, is Conaway, who confirmed to reporters Wednesday night that he is not yet ready to agree to plenty of the proposed policies involving conservation, rural development, research and more.

"They've got to change their mind on stuff ... that is unacceptable," he said.

Conaway continues to hold out for changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and other programs, despite criticism from Roberts, but he also stressed to reporters that it's not him holding up the process.

"You pick your poison as to who you think is standing in the way," he said and stressed that it took Roberts eight days to respond to the last proposal that was sent to him.

On SNAP Roberts said he cannot get a farm bill passed through the Senate with a provision to make it harder for states to get waivers from the existing work rules for SNAP participants. Instead, he said he expects the USDA to release a proposed rule to do that.

That plan did not seem acceptable to Conaway.

"I've got responsibilities to act on behalf of the House and get what we need to get out of the farm bill," Conaway said. "I understand what (Roberts) and (Stabenow) want, but we're going to try to get everything we can. We're working to get to a conclusion on SNAP."

But Roberts said there should already be a conclusion.

"It's an easy thing to do," he said. "Just say yes."


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