Washington Week Ahead: Farm bill conferees look for sweet spots

By Derrick Cain

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, Nov. 4, 2013 - Lawmakers are expected to continue efforts this week to hammer out a myriad of differences over a long-term farm bill, which conferees hope to have done by the end of the year.
During an exciting open door meeting of the 41 conferees Wednesday, lawmakers offered opening statements and laid down their positions. Later in the week, House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said the top four conferees - the chairs and ranking members of both chambers - may sit down this week for more talks.

In an interview with Mike Adams on Agri-Talk on Friday, Peterson  weighed in on what needs to happen in order to complete a farm bill this year. He called for key decisions to be finalized this week, giving the Congressional Budget Office time to score the deals in the coming weeks.

Both Peterson and Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., are expected to be back in Washington to continue negotiations this week - despite the fact that the House is not in session.

Lets Talk Food

“We need to get this done, wrapped up, before Thanksgiving,” Peterson said.  Still, he pointed to the struggle ahead - given the huge differences between the House and Senate on issues like SNAP, the commodity title, conservation compliance and dairy. And he pointed to the likelihood that, in violation of the “Hastert Rule,” dozens of Democrats will be needed to pass the farm bill this year. 

“If we can agree in conference, that doesn't mean it's going to pass (both chambers),” Peterson emphasized, while noting vast differences between the House and Senate on some titles. “It's going to take some judgment as to where that sweet spot is.”

At the same time, Peterson doubled down on his need to have the Dairy Security Act with the stabilization language intact, in order to get votes from him and other Democrats. He signaled it was an effort to get “all or nothing”

“If we don't get the dairy bill that I put together. Then we are going to get current law. And the committee is behind me on that,” he told AgriTalk.

Lucas, who chaired the conference meeting, has not said when or whether another public conference meeting would be held, and said a final bill may take several weeks to complete.

However, staff from conferees are furiously trying to find the same “sweet spot” on an number of issues, including commodity programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, crop insurance, and conservation programs.

While the House is out, the Senate is expected to vote on judicial nominations Monday and then move to consideration of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Meanwhile, the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources will hold a hearing Tuesday on “Shortchanging Our Forests: How Tight Budgets and Management Decisions Increase the Risk of Wildfire.” Jim Hubbard, deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service, is a scheduled witness.

Also on Tuesday, food and agricultural companies will be closely watching the “other” Washington - Washington State - for a vote on Initiative 522, which would force manufacturers to disclose their use of genetically modified crops in processed foods.

If this hard fought initiative is approved, the outcome could have broad implications for the rest of the country, which is safely growing millions of acres of GMO crops without any scientific evidence of concerns about food safety or the environment. 

The week's tentative events include:

Monday, Nov. 4.

2:00 p.m. The Senate will convene and proceed to a period of morning business.

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Dairy Products

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Crop Progress

5:00 p.m. The Senate will proceed to an executive session to consider two judicial nominations.

5:30 p.m. The Senate will vote on two judicial nominations, and on a motion to proceed to the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (S. 815). 

Tuesday, Nov. 5.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will travel to Lincoln, Neb. to deliver keynote remarks at the Rural Futures Conference. The remarks are being promoted also as part of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Heuermann Lecture Series on Agriculture.

9:00 a.m. USDA Report: Food Price Outlook

2:30 p.m. The Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee's Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry and Natural Resources will hold a hearing on “Shortchanging Our Forests: How Tight Budgets and Management Decisions Increase the Risk of Wildfire” in 328 Russell. Jim Hubbard, deputy chief of the U.S. Forest Service, is a scheduled witness.

2:30 p.m. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight will hold a hearing on “Fugitive Methane Emissions for Oil and Gas Operations” in 406 Dirksen

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin (WAOB)

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Monthly Milk Cost of Production

Wednesday, Nov. 6.

Vilsack will visit the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, an agricultural research service facility in Fort Collins, Colo. to highlight the research impacts of a farm bill.

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Broiler Hatchery

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: National Dairy Products Sales Report

Thursday, Nov. 7.

8:30 a.m. USDA Report: U.S. Export Sales

9:30 a.m. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee will hold an oversight hearing to consider the draft regional recommendation regarding the Columbia River Treaty in 366 Dirksen.

Friday, Nov. 8.

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: World Agricultural Production

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Oilseeds: World Markets and Trade

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Cotton: World Markets and Trade

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Cotton, Grains, Oilseeds, and World Agricultural Production Data

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: WASDE

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Grains: World Markets and Trade

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Crop Production

12:00 p.m. USDA Report: Cotton Ginnings

3:00 p.m. USDA Report: Peanut Prices

4:00 p.m. USDA Report: Season Average Price Forecast

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