U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has confidence the five-year farm bill is moving along smoothly and is headed toward passage in the Senate by mid-June. His assessment is less optimistic on what will happen after the Senate passes its version of the bill that deals with farm policy, agricultural and nutritional programs. "I will tell you forthrightly, there is no way that we will ever accept the cuts in the nutrition programs offered by the House. That is a nonstarter. It just can't happen," Harkin said during a conference call last week with reporters. He said the House proposal includes cuts totaling $39.7 billion over 10 years, more than $20 billion of which comes from nutritional programs. The Senate version includes $4 billion in cuts to nutritional programs. Two efforts last week to change the Senate's level of cuts to nutrition programs failed to pass as amendments into the overall bill. "I think what we did here (in the Senate), the $4 billion, it was carefully crafted. It will not really impact the vast 99.9 percent of the people who need SNAP programs and nutrition programs," Harkin said. SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, replaced the former food stamp program. Showing a possible fissure down the line, however, Harkin's colleague U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said he suspects the House and Senate will reach an agreement somewhere in the middle to compromise on cuts to the SNAP program. "I think this bill is going to go through the Senate, with just that one half of 1 percent change, and I don't know that the percentage is in the House ... but it's many times more, so the normal process is you go to conference (committee) and you're going to split the difference," Grassley said. While Grassley, a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee along with Harkin, supported the Senate bill out of committee, he is not opposed to further cuts to the program. Grassley said the stimulus bill in 2009 put additional funds into the former food stamp program, both expanding benefits and who could qualify, and the House is simply trying to bring it to the rate it was before the recession. He also is confident both bodies can reach an agreement on the issue to ensure a bill is passed this year. "There will be agreement reached, yes, and don't forget the economy is improving a bit, so there will be less people on food stamps just naturally anyway," Grassley said. U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack, D-2nd District, does have more confidence the House will bring up a bill this year, but he's not sure yet whether he can support it. The House Agricultural Committee, of which Loebsack is not a member, passed a bill out of committee May 16. He said the House is expected to take up the bill sometime in June. "Last year, the basic problem was that a farm bill wasn't even allowed to come to the floor of the House by the majority party leadership," Loebsack said. "This year there is a commitment to get a bill out of committee and to get it to the floor of the House, and so it's different this year." The five-year farm bill was due for renewal in 2012, but the House did not bring a bill to the floor. Congress ended up extending the previous bill for a year and are now drafting a new bill. Loebsack said it was thanks to pressure from fellow House members, including himself, the Republican leadership agreed to bring up the legislation. Like Harkin, Loebsack said his major concern is the level of cuts to the food stamp program. "I don't support the level of cuts in the House bill," Loebsack said. "Whatever the level of cuts, my bottom-line concern is that people have the food security they need. That's the bottom line, however that's defined, however that's put into effect in terms of the amount of funding that actually has to go, but it's about food security." Loebsack noted the unemployment rate is still 7.5 to 8 percent. "We still have folks who can't find jobs, despite their best efforts and they need to have food security, and as you know, there are a lot of working poor who do not make enough money to support their families, and many of the folks who are receiving ... SNAP assistance are those folks, too," Loebsack said.