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Overdue by over a year, a five-year plan for farmers to conduct their operations is close to implementation. First it must be agreed upon in conference committee.  South Dakota Representative Kristi Noem who is part of the group assigned to the task of bridging the differences between the House and Senate versions expects the work to get done.

There will be some things that will be included and some that will not on a simple up or down vote according to Noem. “Some of those are things like Country of Origin Labelling rules and how they impact our meat packing industry. Then we’ll be able to put the final package together. I’m hoping that we’ll have this done and signed into law by the end of January.

The main sticking point between the different legislations is the SNAP program which provides food assistance for the poor. The House cut a lot and the Senate cut a little from the program. Noem thinks there will be some give from both sides. “What we’ve agreed to so far is around $10 billion in cuts. About two months ago, we had about $11 billion worth of food stamp benefits that expired. So that was money that in our House bill we cut that actually happened because it expired and nobody renewed them. We’ll end up with about a $20 billion reduction in spending in the food stamp program.”

Noem would rather highlight reforms than talk about raw dollars spent or saved by the program. There is now more oversight in the sign-up process. For example, enrollees could previously register through a toll-free number. States would no longer get incentive bonuses for putting people on the rolls. Noem admits people need help, but reforms help the integrity of the process. Additionally, the promotion of the SNAP program will be curtailed. “We have millions of dollars spent advertising food stamps (on different media) and also advertised in foreign governments. We have agreed that the USDA is now prevented from promoting food stamps.” Congress returns to session on Tuesday to begin the 2014 legislative calendar.