Roberts, a Kansas Republican, has said the Senate can't pass a bill with those requirements and that he would need to work with Democrats to craft legislation. He joined U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., in hailing a five-year plan that received 20-1 support from the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Included are provisions for crop insurance, conservation, rural broadband and industrial hemp.
"The Senate Agriculture Committee's bipartisan farm bill process is a reminder of how things should work in Washington — listening to the folks back home, working through issues with the other side of the aisle, then writing a good bill," Roberts and Stabenow said in a joint statement. "Today marks another important step in the road to getting an on-time farm bill enacted into law. We urge our colleagues to support this bill."
Both chambers are working to pass competing legislation in advance of the July 4 recess. Roberts said the goal was to get a bill to the president's desk before the current farm bill expires at the end of September and avoid trying to work out a deal following November elections.
U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, a Republican who represents the 1st District in western Kansas, said if progress continues as planned, negotiations between the Senate and House could begin in July.
The House plan stalled over a promise to allow Republicans to vote on immigration reform before considering the farm bill. Marshall said the immigration plan may fail, but they will take a vote to clear the way.
Concern for the fate of the farm bill centers on a requirement in the House plan that able adults work at least part-time to receive food stamps through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. About 40 million Americans rely on the program for food. If not employed, recipients would either have to perform volunteer work or receive federally funded training.
"We think teaching them to fish is the right thing to do," Marshall said.
Roberts said "everybody knows" the House plan wouldn't have the 60 votes needed in the Senate to overcome a parliamentary procedure Democrats could use to block the bill.
"That's because of the effort to put allegedly welfare reform in the farm bill," Roberts said.
Marshall said "we'll see." Otherwise, he said, the bills are mostly similar, and there isn't any difference he would "die on a sword" to protect.
"There's definitely a path to victory in combining the two bills," he said.
Such a breakthrough would relieve an agriculture community facing uncertainty and rattled by the fallout from a trade war waged by President Donald Trump. Escalating tariffs would have a devastating impact on those who export crops, beef and pork.
Paul Davis, a Democrat who is running for the 2nd District congressional seat, endorsed legislation that would require congressional approval of some tariffs. He said the needs of Kansas farmers and ranchers are more important than party loyalty.
Davis convened an agricultural advisory group with producers, suppliers and policy experts while visiting every county in the district, which includes Topeka.
"The message I received loud and clear," Davis said, "is that rural Kansas will be the first casualty of a trade war. I am eager to go to Washington and work in a bipartisan manner to make sure Kansans' voices are heard."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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