WASHINGTON, Jan. 23, 2014 - Optimism about a farm bill vote by early next week is fading, with discussions continuing over how to settle payment limits, dairy policy and a score of other smaller – yet contentious issues.

Members had been told three days ago to be prepared to fly back to Washington on Sunday for a potential 9 a.m. meeting next Monday, according to Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa.

“But since that time, I’ve heard nothing…the grapevine has gone silent,” King said.

King told Agri-Pulse he has been asking lots of questions about protocol and process, but not getting a lot of answers at this point, including whether or not his amendment, which would block states such as California from forcing their animal welfare standards on other states, would be included in the final bill.

King said he has heard that a “conceptual agreement” has been reached on the dairy title, the definition of “actively engaged,” and on adjusted gross income limits, but has not seen any details.

Congressional aides have largely been quiet on timing. Time is tight in the House with Republicans going on a retreat starting Wednesday, and with the Senate expected to resume debate on flood insurance legislation.

Meanwhile, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., wrote a letter today to Vilsack urging USDA to enforce country-of-origin labeling (COOL) standards. DeLauro said she was discouraged about language in the fiscal year 2014 omnibus spending bill that recommends that USDA delays finalizing COOL meat labeling rules until after the World Trade Organization issues a final decision on the program.

“If your department does not enforce COOL, U.S. ranchers will not be able to differentiate their products with a U.S. label and consumers will not have the information they need at the point of purchase,” DeLauro wrote. “Accurate information is essential in a competitive, free market and COOL provides consumers with essential information about the origin of their food.”


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