Congress will adjourn Dec. 13 for recess, leaving a farm bill deal unfinished. But farm bill leaders say a new farm bill is on track to be picked up again and passed when policymakers return to Washington in January.
The House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Frank Lucas issued a statement after meeting Dec. 11 to discuss outstanding issues relating to the farm bill with the three other principal farm bill negotiators: Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn.
"We have made great progress on the farm bill and continue to have productive meetings. There are still some outstanding issues that we are addressing. I am confident we'll work through them and finish a farm bill in January,” Lucas says.
Worry over not finalizing a farm bill before the December break deadline worried consumer advocates. Without a new farm bill by the December recess things would revert back to 1940s permanent law, requiring higher milk supports and therefore higher consumer costs for dairy goods.
The current farm bill was given a little more age befor the break, as it was extended until January 31. The extension would allow more time for conference committee negotiations on a new five-year bill. The Senate has been opposed to any extension, saying conferees will be able to come to agreement without it.
The 2002 farm bill was extended six times before the 2008 farm bill was enacted.
In a joint statement last week, the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, The National Cotton Council and the USA Rice Federation urged the House and Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee to complete the farm bill. The ground work has been done and now is the time without delay.
“The farm bill conference committee has two pieces of legislation that have been years in development and subjected to independent analysis,” the statement says. “That analysis has consistently verified that the two bills show only relatively small differences in aggregate impacts on commodity markets. With these two bills, the foundation for compromise and agreement has been laid.”