Few weeks left for farm bill

Nov 15, 2013
by DTN

—Tight schedule for Congress

This week is likely to determine whether Congress will finish the farm bill this year.

Both the House and the Senate will be in session during that time. The House was out the week of Nov 4, but both chambers are scheduled to leave again on Nov. 22 for a Thanksgiving break and congressional aides have said they are likely to be out of session for two weeks. That schedule would mean members return on Dec. 9 for another two-week session before they are expected to depart on Dec. 20 for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Congress only has until Jan. 15 to figure out how to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year or face another government shutdown, as the continuing resolution that funds the government at the present time expires on that date.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, (D-IL), said the Senate is expected to come back into session on Jan. 6. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, (R-VA), has said the House will come back into session on Jan. 7.

A congressional conference committee on the budget is trying to come up with an overall budget plan that would provide a framework for the new continuing resolution, and that committee is supposed to finish its report by Dec. 13.

The proposals for compromise between the House and the Senate farm bills need scores from the Congressional Budget Office, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie

Stabenow, (D-MI), told DTN.

In a brief interview after the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), Stabenow said her meeting on Wednesday with the other three principal farm bill negotiators—Senate agriculture ranking member Thad Cochran, (R-MS); House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, (R-OK); and House ranking member Collin Peterson, (D-MN)— had been a “really good discussion” about “a broad framework,” but she added, “We’ve got to get scores.”

Stabenow did not go into details, but the need for CBO scores indicates the four principals did make progress at their meeting. Asked earlier whether the four principals would meet Tuesday when the House and Senate return after Veterans Day, a federal holiday,

Stabenow said the four are in constant communication.

Stabenow also sits on the budget conference committee. She expects House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, (R-WI), to make a proposal “on a path forward” to the conferees next week.

Peterson said in a radio interview last Wednesday that Stabenow had mentioned the possibility of the farm bill being included in a budget bill, an idea he dislikes.

Peterson also said the four principals are continuing to debate whether payments to crop farmers should be made on the basis of historic base acreage or current plantings.

That interview took place before the meeting of the four principals last Wednesday. Peterson said that after the meeting he intended to go hunting. — Jerry Hagstrom, DTN