Expect farm bill in December, says chair of Senate farm committee

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on access to mental health care, in Washington

By Leah Douglas

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top Senate negotiator of the United States' largest farm spending package is looking to get the bill done in December, three months after the prior farm bill expires on Sept. 30.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said at a Tuesday event hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center that the delay was a matter of crafting a "practical" bill that would garner support - and require compromise - from both Republicans and Democrats.

"I'm aiming towards December," Stabenow said. "It really is a question of resources and being able to put together the bipartisan votes."

The looming risk of a government shutdown also creates uncertainty around when the bill could be passed, she said.

Neither the House nor Senate has yet introduced their version of the farm bill, which is passed every five years and funds farm commodity, nutrition, and conservation programs.

Stabenow said that the Senate version of the bill will preserve for conservation programs the $20 billion for climate-friendly farming allocated by the Inflation Reduction Act.

Senate Republicans on the farm committee have suggested folding that money into other titles of the bill.

"The number one threat to our farmers is the climate crisis," she said. "I will not support taking those dollars and putting it in another title."

White House deputy chief of staff John Podesta told Reuters in May that the administration of President Joe Biden would also fight any Republican effort to reallocate those funds.

Passage of the farm bill is often delayed due to negotiations over nutrition programs and other spending. This year's bill is expected to cost more than $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

(Reporting by Leah Douglas; Editing by Tomasz Janowski)