Cross-posted from National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition
We have been hesitant to do much reporting on the House-Senate farm bill conference given the somewhat slow, step-by-step nature of the task of trying to hammer out a final, compromise bill. But inquiring readers have asked where things stand, and we don’t blame them for asking, so here is a quick summary.
Conference Meetings – The Senators and Representatives who are members of the conference have not met again since the initial meeting on October 30, during which each member staked out their major priorities. For better or for worse, no further meetings of the conferees are currently scheduled.
To date, the staff for all conferees have held staff-level meetings on the research, horticulture, energy, and miscellaneous titles, though they have not completed the staff-level consideration of any of those four titles as of yet. During “staff conferencing” sessions, the goal is to try to settle as many issues as possible at the staff level, and to leave as few issues as possible open for further member-level debate. Presumably, they will take one more stab at the four titles they have started in order to further limit the number of issues they punt to the member level.
The other eight titles – commodities, conservation, trade, nutrition, credit, rural development, forestry, and crop insurance – are still on deck.
The two chairs and ranking members – Senators Stabenow (D-MI) and Cochran (R- MS) and Representatives Lucas (R-OK) and Peterson (D-MN) – have reportedly had numerous meetings to try to work toward deals on the big funding and contentious policy issues. Solid information on the status of those talks is hard to come by, though there are sound bites galore on a near daily basis.
Budget Conference Interface – At the same time the farm bill conference is happening, another House-Senate conference is taking place on the budget for Fiscal Year 2014. The interface between the farm bill and the potential budget deal has been a topic of increasingly heated debate, with farm bill conferees weighing in on various sides of the debate.