Bipartisan negotiations over the House farm bill ground to a halt on Thursday afternoon after ranking Agriculture Committee member Collin Peterson faced pressure from fellow Democrats who complained that discussions about changes to the food stamp program were kept secret.
"The Democratic members have made clear that they unanimously oppose the farm bill’s SNAP language as it has been described to them and reported in the press," Peterson said in a statement Thursday.
Peterson’s decision to pause talks comes after House Democrats demanded him to stop negotiations until text of the legislation is shared with fellow members.
A letter signed by 19 Democrats states that they “have grown increasingly concerned about the nutrition policies being pushed by the majority. Items you have broadly outlined in your meetings with us and that have been reported in the press are a significant cause of concern."
"My next steps are clear and I will not be continuing negotiations with the chairman per the unanimous request of all Democratic members of the committee," Peterson said. He said he suggested to Chairman Mike Conaway that the release the actual language, CBO scores and potential effects to Agriculture Committee members.
“I'm not sure where this will take us but it will give the members information about what is actually being proposed,” Peterson said.
It remains to be seen what the next steps are for the committee, which has been in heated negotiations over the nutrition title. An aide for the majority pointed out that Peterson has had the legislative text since February and it's difficult to draft legislation without open, bipartisan talks.