Sen. Johnson warns he could vote ‘no’ on farm bill

Farm Forum

As the farm bill heads into a conference committee, South Dakota’s senior senator warned that he might vote against the final version. “Frankly, I will support the Senate bill or something close to it as being satisfactory,” Sen. Tim Johnson, D-S.D., told reporters on July 17. “I will not support the House ag bill. … There are huge differences between the bills.”

Johnson said he wants the final bill to include the so-called nutrition title, which includes school lunches and the food stamp program.

The House recently passed a farm bill after stripping the nutrition title out, an unprecedented move viewed by some as necessary after the House bill failed after disagreements erupted over those provisions.

“At the end of the day, the farm bill should include nutrition and traditional ag programs,” Johnson said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow have said “the farm bill will go nowhere” without a nutrition title, Johnson said.

Johnson said he is optimistic that House Republican leaders have agreed to appoint members to a farm bill conference committee. Had they refused, the legislation would have been in serious jeopardy.

Now, with a few weeks before the traditional August recess and a few months before the end of the fiscal year, Johnson said he expects conference committee work to begin soon — providing conference committee members can be appointed without delay.

“Members have not been named, so far,” Johnson said.

The current one-year extension of the previous farm bill is set to expire at the end of September.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., has said he is not concerned with the House stripping the nutrition title. He said nutrition provisions could be added back in during conference negotitations.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., said House leaders have assured her they intend to take up the nutrition title as a separate bill and send that into conference committee.