Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., expressed cautious optimism Monday about a new farm bill before the end of 2013.
He spoke during a luncheon at the Kansas Farm Bureau Summit at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., a member of the Senate agriculture committee, is scheduled to speak at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday during the bureau’s annual meeting.
The 2008 farm bill, which sets agricultural and nutrition policy and funding, expired Sept. 30 without passage of a new bill. Congress extended the bill for nine months in January due to a lack of action towards a new farm bill.
The House and Senate each passed their versions of the farm bill, but a conference committee hasn’t worked out the differences between the two bills.
Moran said he had more optimism about the process before last week’s deadline to reconcile passed.
“The hope still is there’s a farm bill completed by the end of the year, but it’s become a greater question of whether that’s true because of the failure to get the basics done by now,” he said.
Moran said the main issue with the farm bill is the funding level of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which he said represents more than 80 percent of the farm bill’s spending.
The Democrat-controlled Senate’s farm bill cuts $4 billion over the next 10 years while the Republican-controlled House’s version cuts nearly $40 billion over the same time period.
“The House wants to reduce the spending on SNAP much more significantly than the Senate does,” he said. “That’s a huge challenge as well.”
The House previously separated SNAP from the rest of the farm bill, which Moran didn’t agree should happen.
“I’m of the view that you cannot pass a farm bill without them being combined,” he said. “We don’t have enough members of Congress who care about farm programs to pass a farm bill if it’s just that.”
Katie Pratt, a spokesperson for U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, spoke about the importance of local food and action during Monday’s lunch.
Pratt said it’s important to support those that are helping the community such as the farm bureau.
“Your county farm bureau is the local answer to a lot of society’s problems,” she said.
Pratt spoke about how she sometimes uses the line, “there are starving children in Africa,” to get her kids to eat.
She said there are starving children everywhere including in many people’s backyards in Kansas.
“Suddenly, a Walmart-sized, global problem has been pared down to a local situation,” she said.
Pratt said officials at a recent conference she attended said the latest buzzwords that drives menus are “local and sustainable” rather than organic.
“It is easy to be disconnected with the people who are working hard to put food on our stores’ shelves when we’re in a place as vast as Walmart,” she said.
Pratt said local food isn’t necessarily more healthful, but it provides people a “warm, fluffy feeling inside.”
“In a transient society such as ours, people are looking to connect with family when family doesn’t live right down the block or a mile down the road,” Pratt said.