CEDAR RAPIDS -- Sen. Joni Ernst hopes Congress can reach agreement on a five-year farm bill before the end of the year and thinks Democratic gains in the midterm election could add some urgency to the process.
The Iowa Republican also expressed optimism about the impact of President Donald Trump saying he will allow year-round sale of E15 and of the new trade agreement between the United States, Mexico and Canada.
The E15 waiver “is a win for Iowa,” Ernst said Thursday, because it will increase farm income, ethanol production and consumption and boost the economy.
The new trade agreement is a “step toward much-needed certainty” for agricultural producers at an “incredibly tough time,” Ernst said in a conference calls with reporters.
Ernst, a member of the House-Senate conference committee trying to resolve differences in the farm bill, hopes that work can be accomplished before the end of the year.
Although the farm bill expired Sept. 30, several of its programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — food stamps — are continuing.
The House is in recess, so only the conference committee leaders and staffers are working on resolving the differences between versions passed by the House and the Senate, she said.
There is some discussion about shifting support payments from corn and soybeans to cotton, Ernst said.
“I don’t know that it is the main sticking point,” she said. “We have other issues with conservation titles, the credit title and, of course, SNAP is a big one with the work requirement. So we have our work cut out for us.”
The House bill includes a work requirement for able-bodied SNAP recipients. Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley don’t think that will survive the conference committee.
After the midterm elections when the House is in session, “we get into that little bit of a lame duck (session), we can work through the issues.”
“I think it does put a greater push to get it done, especially if the House flips,” Ernst added.
In that case, Republicans likely would want to get a five-year extension of the farm bill in place before a Democratic majority takes control in the House.