Farm bill conferees cite progress, but no final deal yet
By Derrick Cain
© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.
WASHINGTON, Dec. 4, 2013 - The top four farm bill conferees are likely to meet again Thursday after holding a short meeting today where they declared “great progress” on reaching a final deal, but offered scant details.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and ranking member Thad Cochran, R-Miss., sat down with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., this morning and came out of the meeting together smiling. Stabenow and Peterson said they discussed every title of the bill.
“We're doing great,” Stabenow said, noting staff is working on specifics and on some scoring issues. “We've narrowed differences…We are coming closer on every part of the bill.”
Stabenow would not say whether she thought the bill could be completed by the end of the year, instead saying, “We'll get it done as quickly as possible.”
Lucas agreed with Stabenow by saying, “We made great progress. We have more progress to make…Let us keep working.”
Peterson said he was more optimistic about a final deal, but did not offer any details. When asked by Agri-Pulse if he could describe the progress made today, he said, “I don't think that would be helpful.”
Later in the day, Peterson said they have “made a lot of progress on the commodity title” during Wednesday's meeting. Overall, he said the top conferees identified about 10 issues they do not agree upon, but he would not say what those were.
“Hopefully, [Thursday] we can get it down to three or four,” Peterson said. He further said that if conferees get closer to a deal on Thursday, they may be able to have a framework ready on Dec. 10.
Separately, Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation, urged conferees today to get the bill completed soon.
“It is time, once and for all, to unify behind a farm bill that works for all of American agriculture, including crop, livestock and fruit and vegetable growers,” Stallman said. “As a nation, we cannot afford to do otherwise. The best way for us to do that is to trust those who have brought us this far.”
Stallman said his organization offers strong support of the conferees. “We must move forward,” he said. “It is time to let our leaders lead.”
Updated 7:30 p.m., Dec. 4.
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