Current farm law expires at the end of September, and it's unlikely that both sides will agree on a final farm bill before then, even if the House is able to pass a food stamp bill. Food stamp dollars will continue to flow after the law expires but some farm programs would be in danger. Without an extension or a change in policy, for example, dairy subsidies would revert to decades-old law and cause milk prices to potentially double.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he won't allow another extension after the law was continued once early this year to avert the dairy crisis. Stabenow said an extension would be difficult anyway because many members don't want to continue certain farm subsidies that would be eliminated under the House and Senate farm bills.
"This is a ticking time bomb here, waiting to go off," she said. "It makes no sense."
Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee, said the proposed food stamp bill "effectively kills any hopes of passing a five-year farm bill this year."
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., hinted Thursday that the differences are so "huge and dramatic" between the Senate bill and what the House is proposing, that the White House may need to get involved, something the Obama administration has so far declined to do. The White House supported the Senate bill but had threatened a veto of the House bill.
"This may be one of those issues that may need some guidance from on high," Lucas said.
First, though, Republicans have to get the votes to pass the food stamp bill in the House. That could be difficult as Democrats are likely to be united in opposition and some moderate Republicans may not go along.
Stutzman said he thinks the issue will play well with their constituents when members return to their districts in August. The Republicans say they are trying to focus on the policies, not the number of dollars that would be cut.
"Most people will agree that if you are an able bodied adult without any kids you should find your way off food stamps," Stutzman said, referring to the proposed work requirements. "I don't think we will find much disagreement on this."
Noem agreed, saying that talking about policies and not just dollars "shows that you really care about adding integrity into the program."
Still, she said, making cuts to the program is a "huge culture change" not only for Democrats but also for some Republicans who have a lot of food stamp recipients in their districts.
"That's all a big pill to swallow for some of them," she said.