Farm bill conferee: 'Optimistic,' but lawmakers probably won't make New Year's deadline
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WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2013 - The farm bill is coming closer to completion but may not make its New Year's deadline, according to farm bill conferee Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Ill., who spoke to C-SPAN's Washington Journal this morning.
“I think we're getting closer,” he said. “I'm optimistic we're moving in the right direction.”
But later, he told host Greta Brawner, “I don't think [a farm bill is] going to get passed before Dec 31st, and that's unfortunate.”
The congressman's comments come after the four farm bill principals - Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn. - emerged smiling from a closed-door meeting yesterday.
“We made great progress. We have more progress to make…Let us keep working,” Lucas told reporters, while Peterson reported the lawmakers had found compromises on parts of the sticky commodity title, which had been holding up negotiations previously.
The negotiators will meet again today.
Still, failing to pass a farm bill before the end of the year would mean halting a number of programs that continued past the legislation's official Sept. 30 expiration date. Most notably, milk prices could double to seven or eight dollars a gallon after the dairy program reverts to permanent law - which it must if no other legislation is passed.
As an alternative, the National Corn Growers Association and the American Soybean Association recently broke ranks with other farm and commodity groups to suggest a two-year extension of the farm bill.
Another farm bill sticking point? The Supplemental Nutrition Association Program (SNAP). Lawmakers must find a compromise between the $40 billion in cuts offered by the GOP-lead House bill and the $4 billion offered by Senate Democrats.
But on C-SPAN, Rep. Neugebauer shied away from numbers. “I'm more interested in the policy,” he said, citing his support for proposals that would restrict automatic eligibility among those who qualify for other federal benefits and for those who are not looking for work.
“I owe responsibility to everybody in this country, especially the taxpayers, to make sure we're using money efficiently,” he said.
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