Boehner to hold steady on dairy position, Conaway says

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Jan. 13, 2014 - Although House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, will not budge on his position on dairy policy, top Republican farm bill conferees are hopeful that a conference report could be signed this week, Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas., said Monday night.

“Boehner's not moving [on dairy], my experience with him in nine years is that even when he's subtle about a ‘no,' it's a ‘no,'” Conaway said, speaking after a floor vote. “This is not a subtle position at all. I'm pretty confident it's a ‘no' and we need to work something out.”

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Boehner's long-held position is that a farm bill should not include supply management provisions for the dairy program, which he has said would amount to unfair market manipulation and raise costs. The Senate bill includes those provisions, which are strongly supported by House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and many other lawmakers, who argue it would limit over-production.

Speculation has been growing that a conference report may be offered up for conferees to sign, rather than hold a formal meeting with amendments.

Farm bill conferee Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., said Monday that conferees have been left out of the loop, and that he has seen nothing on paper. If top lawmakers decide not to hold a conference, McGovern said, “That would just suck.”

Lawmakers appear to be encountering an increasingly heavier lift as more disputes continue to heat up - such as the contentious battle over direct payments and the definition of “actively engaged.” Peterson has said this issue caused talks to break off last week.

Going forward, farm bill movement in the Senate is extremely unlikely this week as that chamber is focusing on unemployment insurance benefits and appropriations. House Agriculture Committee Frank Lucas, R-Okla., is continuing to hold out hope that House conferees could sign a report this week, Conaway said.

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