Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., is still waiting for the House to send its version of the farm bill over so that the Senate and House can get to conference and hammer out a compromise between the two bills.
With just 24 legislative days before the current farm bill expires, Stabenow says time is of the essence.
"There is not a lot of time," Stabenow said during a call with reporters Monday. "There is no reason to wait or delay the process anymore."
But House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., says the House still has more work ahead of it before it's ready to spar with the Senate and negotiate a bipartisan, bicameral farm bill.
While the Senate bill resembles the farm bills of the past by combining farm programs with nutrition programs, the House bill at this point addresses nothing but farm policies.
Thursday, the House approved a farm-only agriculture bill void of the nutrition programs that had become staples of the bill since the 1970s. The legislation, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated would cut the deficit by $12.9 billion during the next decade, passed on a party line vote. Cantor said before the House sends over its farm bill, it will also pass a separate bill to address the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as food stamps.
"It is our intention to act with dispatch to bring to the floor a bill dealing with the SNAP program, that portion of what was traditionally the farm bill. We intend to be bringing that vehicle to the floor at some time in the near future," Cantor said Thursday on the House floor.
That's where the trouble lies.
The reason the House had to break up the farm bill into two separate pieces of legislation in the first place was the GOP caucus was divided over how much to cut from the program. The original farm bill cut more than $20 billion, but even that was not enough for fiscal hawks in the House.
But if the House cannot come to the drawing board with the Senate or if it fails to pass a bill to regulate food stamps, families and children will not go hungry.
Instead, the House and Senate leaders won't see any of the bipartisan reforms to the programs they have wanted to see, including keeping college students who live with their parents from collecting food stamps or keeping lottery winners from also applying for food stamps.
Funding for food stamps is handled through appropriations bills so even without a farm bill, the programs will continue and without any significant reforms.
"If you want to be able to cut down on waste fraud and abuse that doesn't happen unless we pass our nutrition title," Stabenow said.