ADEL — At least one of the negotiators trying to iron out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the 2018 farm bill remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached yet this year.

Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, is chair of the House Agriculture Committee. He came to Iowa last week to campaign for Rep. David Young, R-Iowa, but also took time to meet with farm organization leaders to answer questions about the farm bill.

“I believe we can” get a farm bill passed during a lame duck session of Congress after the election, Conaway said, stressing that he and the other three primary negotiators (the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee and the ranking Democrats on the House and Senate committees) all want to get the bill passed this year.

When asked if the Democrats may want to delay until a new Congress is in place, Conaway said he did not believe that to be the case. The Senate is unlikely to flip to Democratic control, he explained, and House Ranking Member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., has assured him that he does not want to wait.

“We just have a difference of opinion,” Conaway said of the negotiations.

While the most obvious difference of opinion appears to be over work requirements for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, Conaway said that is not the only sticking point. He said negotiators have reached agreement on a couple of farm bill titles but are still working their way through others. No face-to-face meetings are likely in the short time between now and the election, but discussion continues.

Among the differences in the House and Senate bills are the energy title, which was cut more in the House bill, and the conservation title, where the House version moves money from the Conservation Security Program, or CSP, to EQIP.

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“We believe CSP has run its course,” Conaway said.

But the biggest hurdle still appears to be the SNAP work requirements. Senate negotiators have said they have no chance of passing House language on that issue in the Senate, and Peterson has also said he opposes the House language.

Conaway argued in support of the House language on SNAP and said he and Peterson see eye to eye on the other parts of the House bill.

The 2014 farm bill officially expired on Sept. 30, but Conaway stressed that farmers won’t feel much of an impact because the programs generally run through the end of a crop year.

If no agreement is reached by the end of the year, a one-year extension of the present farm bill could be necessary, but such a move may lead to a change in the budgetary baselines for some programs in 2019.

And an extension doesn’t necessarily include funding for programs that have no budget baseline. For example, programs aimed at promoting exports may still be in place but are facing an uncertain budget future until a new bill is passed, Conaway said.

For the farmers and farm leaders in the room, the message was clear: A farm bill needs to be passed this year.

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