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Farm Bill Remaining Issues Keep Timeline Up in the Air

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farm bill up in the air

A meeting of all farm bill negotiators was still expected this week – but uncertainty continued to surround the bill’s ultimate fate. The four principal negotiators struggled all week to resolve remaining farm bill differences before a planned end-of-week meeting of all negotiators. But fights over payment limits, Country-of-Origin Meat Labeling and dairy reforms threatened to play into the full conference and complicate final passage.

South Dakota Senator John Thune is not pleased with the way the commodity title looks right now.

“The reason I voted against it when it came out of the Senate Ag Committee is it just lacked essential reforms in the commodity title of the bill, and frankly the commodity title has gotten worse as it has moved through the process. It relies on high, fixed target prices set in statute by Congress which is very far afield from the market oriented reforms that had hoped would be included in the commodity title of the bill.”

He says he would like to see the conference committee wrap up this week with a bill that can make it to the House and Senate floors next week.

National Farmers Union’s Chandler Goule responded to a renewed threat by Speaker John Boehner on dairy reforms killed earlier in the House but favored by the Senate

“Dairy is always the last thing that is ever done in every farm bill, and I when I was on the hill in 2009 it was the last thing done. I hope the House leadership will be able to see beyond that singular issue of the importance of getting a 5 year comprehensive farm bill done.”

Dairy Supply Management was championed by House Ag Ranking Democrat Collin Peterson but opposed by Boehner, and Politico reports the Speaker told Peterson last Friday in a conference call that his provisions wouldn’t be in any final bill. Peterson is seen as a key ally of House Ag Chair Frank Lucas in getting Democratic votes on the House floor, and he predicted no farm bill if the dairy fight continued. A Peterson aide downplayed the spat. Goule agreed the Speaker needs Peterson to pass a farm bill.

“I think it’s definitely safe to say that it will require the Democrats that Peterson has said he can deliver to get this bill done to make up for the majority party that will refuse to vote for this bill matter what.”

Sixty-two Republicans killed the original House Farm Bill last summer in a push for bigger food stamp cuts, an issue sure to take center stage again in the House in any final deal.

Additional reports from NAFB News Service:

Farm Bill Conferees to Consider Compromise on Dairy Reform

Farm bill conferees are considering a proposal to let producers choose between continuing the current MILC payments or the new margin insurance program – but without the market stabilization or supply management provisions – according to The Hagstrom Report. Representatives Bob Goodlatte and David Scott are urging conferees to adopt their amendment – which eliminates the supply management component. Goodlatte says more than 140 diverse groups have joined with 291 House members in voicing opposition to supply management. He says this type of provision will ultimately hurt dairy producers and consumers. Scott says this isn’t just a battle between Speaker Boehner and House Ag Ranking Member Collin Peterson. He says the overwhelming bipartisan vote count on the Goodlatte-Scott amendment was a clear, strong statement of the will of the entire House on this issue. Nebraska Senator Mike Johanns said he thought the dairy issue had been put to bed.

No Farm Bill Conference Meeting

House Speaker John Boehner expressed confidence in his weekly news conference that the farm bill conference report will not include supply management provisions for the dairy program. Boehner said the soviet-style dairy program we have will continue – but said Congress shouldn’t make it worse by including supply management – an idea he has fought off for 23 years in Congress. Boehner’s stance appears to be what kept a conference meeting on the farm bill from happening Thursday. Congressional farm leaders had hoped to hold a meeting – but plans have been on hold since Boehner first reiterated his continuing opposition to the market stabilization/supply management provision last Friday. Conflicts reportedly remain over payment limitations to farmers and a few other issues as well – though it seems consensus has been reached on an eight to nine-billion dollar cut in the food stamp program over 10 years.