WASHINGTON, Dec. 5, 2013 – Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Texas, arrived at the Farm Journal Forum today with two speeches in mind – one that reflected the lack of farm bill progress prior to Wednesday’s meeting and one developed after that meeting.
“Up until yesterday, things were not working that well,” Conaway noted, “but yesterday was a good day and fundamentally altered my speech.”
Conaway was referring to a meeting Wednesday between 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., - who emerged smiling from a closed-door meeting yesterday.
Although there are still a lot of details to be finalized, the principals appeared to finally break a log-jam over the commodity title, agreeing to analyze new options – subject to Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scoring – that could allow corn and soybean growers to select a farm program calculated on base acres rather than planted acres.
Conaway offered no specifics on the negotiations, noting only that he’s “encouraged” about the prospects for farm bill passage and “I don’t see any of the other pieces that are insurmountable.”
However, he hedged expectations on whether or not it will happen in 2013.
“I’m not sure that it’s physically possible to get the job done yet this year,” Conaway explained, especially with the House expected to leave Dec. 13. The Senate returns Dec. 9 and is expected to leave Dec. 20.
He said House leadership is committed to allocating floor time if a there is the need to vote on a farm bill conference report. “The House is showing flexibility,” Conaway.
Asked about the need to do another one or possibly two-year extension, especially to protect the dairy baseline at the end of December, Conaway downplayed the prospects, while saying that “we’ll protect whatever needs to be protected.”
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