BISMARCK - North Dakota Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer and Minnesota Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson will be among the House farm bill negotiators looking to smooth over differences with the Senate, leaders of their respective parties announced Wednesday, July 18.
Also appointed from Minnesota was U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a member of the ag committee who represents southern Minnesota and is running for governor facing a primary battle in August.
"I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and working to bring the maximum benefits to North Dakota farmers in the bill," Cramer said in a statement.
House Speaker Paul Ryan named 29 Republicans to the conference committee, while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi selected 18 Democrats. The Senate has not yet named its farm bill conferees.
The current farm bill is set to expire at the end of September. The multi-year bill includes a swath of programs ranging from crop insurance to conservation and commodity supports.
The House barely passed its version of the farm bill a month ago with new food stamp work requirements. Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee who represents most of western Minnesota farm country, joined the rest of his party in voting against it and has accused Republicans of pursuing an "ideological crusade."
The Senate passed its farm bill in late June in an 86-11 vote without major food stamp changes, the Washington Post reported. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, whom Cramer is challenging this year, called it "strong, bipartisan" legislation at the time.
In an interview Wednesday, Cramer said the House will fight for "some reforms" of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program but hoped each chamber will "gravitate" toward the middle before the current bill's expiration.
"It's pretty clear that the House is not going to have 100 percent of what it seeks any more than the Senate will have 100 percent of what it seeks," he said.
Cramer was selected through his membership on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
Heitkamp campaign spokeswoman Julia Krieger called Cramer’s conference committee appointment “politics at its worst," suggesting he's unqualified because he doesn't serve on the ag committee.
The farm bill negotiations come amid escalating trade battles that are causing some farmer anxiety. China has imposed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. soybeans, a major North Dakota export to the Asian nation.
In a statement this week, Heitkamp called the farm bill her "top priority" and said it could provide certainty to farmers who fear a "misguided trade war."