No Surprise: Farm Bill End Zone Moves to Jan. 2014

December 4, 2013 05:00 AM

via a special arrangement with Informa Economics, Inc.

More time needed to draft, score whatever agreement comes

NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.

Farm bill veterans predicted for months that the new farm bill saga would be bumped to 2014, and this is the likely case following word from conference chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) that the goal is to reach agreement on key issues over the coming days and then have the final bill drafted over the Christmas recess and ready for floor action in January – Congress returns Jan. 7 and the stopgap spending measure expires Jan. 15.

Lucas provides the way ahead. "I think a set of understandings about the final draft of the bill can be achieved (in the next few days). I think it is possible then to leave, for the remainder of December, the final drafting, and the scoring, and the verification of the details by CBO and USDA in the hands of folks so that when we would return that first week in January, that it could be implemented," Lucas told AgriTalk. If so, that would likely require a short-term extension of the 2008 Farm Bill into January to prevent permanent law from triggering.

Although conferees and staff have had a long time to settle differences, they have not been successful for a host of reasons. Unsettled issues include how the bill’s new price guarantees will be based, whether on planted or base acreage. Of note, Lucas said he’s working with the committee economist "to come up with a way to make base work, to decouple."

While Senate Democrats have accused House leaders of interfering in the talks, Lucas denied that was the case. "They’ve let the House conference committee try to do its work. They’ve allowed me to try to do my work. And I’m very respectful of that. They could have micromanaged me, but they have not."

Comments: Just think, farm bill conferees and staff need MORE time to deliver. They've had several YEARS, but still need more time. Welcome, again, to your dysfunctional Congress.

Farm bill staffers will continue to seek agreement on Title I and food stamp issues, but as noted, the end zone moves to January 2014. Thus, the rest of December will be mostly staff work and Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring – if a framework agreement can be reached. However, sources continue to signal that Senate Ag Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) may still linger her compromises into 2014, thinking that she will get more of what she wants (lower food stamp funding cuts, etc.) if she gets into the 2014 timeframe.


NOTE: This column is copyrighted material, therefore reproduction or retransmission is prohibited under U.S. copyright laws.



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