By Leah Douglas
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Congress may need to pass a short-term extension of the country’s current farm bill, the largest food and nutrition spending package, amid delays drafting the next one, the top lawmakers on the Senate and House farm committees said on Thursday.
The farm bill funds U.S. nutrition, conservation and commodity programs and is passed every five years. The current bill expires on Sept. 30.
Senator Debbie Stabenow, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said “it would not surprise me” if lawmakers passed a short-term extension of the current farm bill, as has happened on occasion with past bills.
“We can’t give you a date (for a draft), but we’re moving as quickly as we can,” she said at an event hosted by Bloomberg Government.
The process of drafting the farm bill is behind schedule in part because hearings were delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, said Representative Glenn “GT” Thompson, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, at the event.
Lawmakers were further delayed by negotiations over the deal passed in early June to raise the federal debt ceiling, which involved changes to a food assistance program that is authorized by the farm bill, Stabenow said.
Thompson said he hopes to have a draft bill ready for markup by the House in September.
(Reporting by Leah Douglas in Washington; Editing by Matthew Lewis)