“Some key senators have said the Senate won’t accept a one-month extension, but obviously the House is going to call their bluff. Either everyone gets an extension or USDA spends January trying to draft rules for permanent law to go into effect.”
Kristina Peterson reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “A new five-year farm bill won’t be passed in Congress this year but could be ready in January, lawmakers said Tuesday.
“Winter storms kept an employee of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office away from Washington and unable to complete the key cost estimates lawmakers needed to continue their negotiations, chairmen of the House and Senate agriculture committees told reporters Tuesday.”
Ms. Peterson explained that, “Without cost estimates, negotiators said they wouldn’t be able to reach a deal with enough time to vote on legislation before the House adjourns for the year at the end of this week. Lawmakers said they still hoped to settle on a framework before the Senate leaves one week later, potentially setting up a vote in January on the first new farm bill since 2008.”
Kyle Potter reported yesterday at the Fargo Forum (N.D.) Online that, “After months of doubt, the top House Democrat in ongoing negotiations says lawmakers are a near a deal that would pave the way for passing a farm bill in the next month.
“Minnesota Rep. Collin Peterson, one of four House and Senate negotiators working behind the scenes on a compromise between the two chambers, said the framework of a farm bill deal could be finished before the House adjourns for the year on Friday, pushing a full vote sometime into January.
“Crucially, Peterson said the negotiators have agreed on how much to cut from food stamps – one of the largest sticking points between the House and Senate. Peterson declined to provide a number, but said the deal hews ‘substantially closer to the Senate’s’ targeted cuts of $4 billion over the next decade rather than the House’s bill, which would slash $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.”
Yesterday’s article noted that, “‘I think it will pass the Senate, but I cannot guarantee you it will pass the House,’ Peterson said in a meeting with the Forum’s Editorial Board Monday. ‘They are not going to be happy with the food stamp cuts.’
“Peterson said he’s confident he can secure ‘yes’ votes from at least half of the House Democrats – important if many Republicans, who control the House, balk at the smaller-than-expected food cuts to food stamps.”
The article added that, “But even as a deal emerges, a short-term extension may still be necessary to avoid skyrocketing milk prices that could come as dairy subsidies expire at the end of the year.”
Donnelle Eller reported on the front page of yesterday’s Des Moines Register that, “Economists expect Iowa corn and soybean growers will lose money over the next four years, beginning with this year’s harvest, squeezed by low commodity prices and high production costs.
“The potential downturn follows a boom that saw growers worldwide bringing millions more acres into production to take advantage of record-high prices.
“Experts in Iowa compare the downturn to the devastating 1980s farm crisis, the only time in at least 60 years that the state’s farm industry posted a loss. This correction is unlikely to be as severe, because farmers are coming off record-high net incomes. But enough similarities exist to cause concern.”
At his weekly news conference yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) indicated that, “On the farm bill, you know, I’ve not seen any real progress on the farm bill. And so if we’ve got to pass a one-month extension of the — of the farm bill, I think we’ll be prepared to do that.”
A reporter followed up by asking: “Would it be the entire farm bill or specific […off-mic…].
Speaker Boehner noted that, “I’ll let the chairman answer that question, but I think all of it probably ought to be extended for a month. Listen, I made it clear that the House is going to leave next Friday. And you all know me pretty well. I mean what I say, and I say what I mean.”
Russell Berman reported yesterday at The Hill Online that, “On the farm bill, Boehner was more pessimistic and raised the possibility of needing a one-month extension of current policy into next year.”
The update added that, “Without an extension, milk prices could spike after Jan. 1. Boehner said that he believes an extension should cover the entire farm bill and not just the dairy program.”
Ms. Jalonick added that, “White House spokesman Jay Carney reiterated Obama’s support for the Senate version of the bill Thursday, calling the House SNAP cuts ‘unconscionable’ and harmful to families across the country.
“‘The president has mentioned and made clear that there is an opportunity for bipartisan cooperation on a comprehensive farm bill,’ Carney said. ‘And he hopes and expects that that can be achieved before the end of the year.’”
U.S. Department of Agriculture Communications Director Matt Paul noted in a statement yesterday that, “Negotiations on Capitol Hill about the Farm Bill should continue until House and Senate leaders reach agreement on a comprehensive bill. Numerous members of both sides have indicated progress, and the country deserves continued work on this critical legislation.”
Meanwhile, Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) on Thursday said a deal on the farm bill is emerging, though nothing has been finalized.
“He said that while finishing the bill by the time the House recesses on Dec. 13 would be ‘Herculean,’ he does not yet want Congress to move to a one-month extension.
“‘As Sen. [Debbie] Stabenow [D-Mich.] says, nothing is ever done until all the parts are complete. Maybe Sen. Stabenow is right,’ Lucas said. ‘It would still be my hope that we could get all of our work done in time to not require an extension.’”
Mr. Wasson added that, “Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) called for a stopgap farm measure on Thursday to avoid a spike in milk prices in early January.
“But Lucas said he believes the Agriculture Department would hold off on implementing the dairy policies if a farm bill is moving through Congress.”
The Hill update explained that, “The chairman said that he would be leaving for Oklahoma on Thursday afternoon, likely leaving any deal on the farm bill for next week.
“A House leadership aide said that the talks are moving too slowly to allow for a deal before the time the House leaves for its recess on Dec. 13, and that is why Boehner sees the need for an extension that avoids a milk price spike.”
Also yesterday, Niels Lesniewski reported at Roll Call Online that, “On the House floor, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the House would be ready to consider ‘legislation pertaining to farm programs, including potentially a full farm bill conference report,’ if it becomes available.”
Reuters writer Charles Abbott reported yesterday that, “The House might vote next week to extend the now-expired 2008 farm law into January, ‘just enough for us to get our work done,’ said a House staff worker.”
Mr. Abbott noted that, “Farm-state lawmakers were optimistic about wrapping up the bill in short order, but not before the new year. A senior member of the House Agriculture Committee, Mike Conaway of Texas, said Republicans were ‘flexible’ in negotiations with the Senate while insisting on stricter food stamp rules.”
The Reuters article added that, “Conaway told the Farm Journal Forum, a farm policy meeting, that the final version of the farm bill will need work requirements for food stamp recipients: ‘something that says to continue to get food stamps you have to get back into the game’ by working or looking for a job.”
Erik Wasson reported yesterday at The Hill’s On the Money Blog that, “The main farm bill negotiators emerged from their first face-to-face meeting in nearly two weeks on Wednesday more optimistic they will reach an agreement.
“The hour-long meeting occurred as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) took to the House floor to blame Senate Democrats for failing to agree to a farm bill deal.
“‘Staff are doing some work on specifics and scores and so on, but we are making great progress,’ said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who flew into town despite the Senate recess to hold talks.”
Ed O’Keefe reported in today’s Washington Post that, “House and Senate negotiators plan to meet again this week in hopes of finishing another complicated piece of legislation before a critical, fast-approaching deadline.
“In this case it is the farm bill, an omnibus measure that sets federal agricultural policy and spending on food aid.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Farm bill talks intensified Wednesday night even as a new report showed that food stamp expenditures are already beginning to fall as a share of the economy — a downward decline that’s expected to accelerate over the next five years.
“Further cuts from food stamps are a major dividing point in the farm bill negotiations now, but there is growing pressure to try to reach a deal in the next few days on both the nutrition and commodity titles.
“The top four members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees met for almost 90 minutes Wednesday evening behind closed doors with staff. Further discussions are expected Thursday morning, and House Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) held out the possibility of more meetings Friday depending on what progress is being made.”
Chris Clayton reported yesterday at the DTN Ag Policy Blog that, “Farmers in parts of the northern and eastern Corn Belt would be collecting Price Loss Coverage payments on their corn crops this week IF the House version of the farm bill were in place.
“DTN’s market tracker shows corn for delivery selling as low as $3.17 a bushel in northeast Montana. Cash prices in several states show farmers would be receiving a target-price check for corn.”
During a radio interview yesterday with J. Doug Williams (K-101-FM radio, Woodward, Okla.), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R., Okla.) indicated that, “And I am in the process, with my senior colleagues on the House side on the Ag Committee, to try to negotiate out the differences between us and the Senate. There are three big areas of difference, and in reverse order, food stamps. The Senate wants to save about $4 billion by basically making the Northeastern states that use food stamps to help pay for their citizens’ home heating oil to stay warm in the wintertime to pay more.”
“The Senate essentially just doesn’t want to make any changes in food stamps. The House wants to do ten times as much, so working that out is going to be tough,” the Chairman added.
Chairman Lucas pointed out that, “The second area is the dairy program. The House leadership doesn’t want to do supply management, which makes the dairy insurance work better. The Senate insists on that. That’s a philosophical issue about supply management by the federal government.
“And the biggest area, the one that matters probably the most, generally, to our listeners, is the commodity title. The Senate wants to do…they’ve finally come around to the fact that you have to have a safety net that works not just for the Midwest, but for everybody else. They want a program by which, when you sign up for five years, you’re automatically covered under either version of the safety net.
“The problem is, when you take the responsibility out, you also reduce the quality of the safety net. The House perspective is we’re big boys and girls, we can make big decisions, let’s give people a choice between which way they go, let them choose for the five years. If they make the right decision, then the safety net will be stronger. If they make the wrong decision, well, they made the decision they made. So that’s a difference right now. And those are the three big things holding us up.”
“Eighty-four percent of the nation’s corn is in the bin, compared to 73% last week and a five-year average of 79%.”
The DTN article added that, “Soybean harvest advanced by five percentage points in the same week. Ninety-one percent of the nation’s crop has been cut, compared to 86% last week and a five-year average of 92%.”
Dar Danielson noted yesterday at RadioIowa Online that, “Iowa farmers are rushing to complete the corn and soybean harvest before winter sets in for good.”
Meanwhile, University of Illinois Agricultural Economist Gary Schnitkey indicated yesterday at the farmdoc daily blog (“Break-Even Soybean Prices: History and Projections”) that, “For farmland that is cash rented near average rent levels, break-even soybean prices have increased from near $5.00 per bushel in 2004 to around $10.70 per bushel in 2013 and 2014. Break-even prices near $10.70 will cause losses when soybean prices are below $10.70. Prices being below break-even prices are possible over the next several years.”
Tony C. Dreibus reported yesterday at The Wall Street Journal Online that, “Soybeans rose for the fifth straight session on signs of strong demand for U.S. inventories…[C]hicago Board of Trade soybean futures for November delivery gained 11 cents, or 0.8%, to $13.19 a bushel.”
Darren Goode reported yesterday at Politico that, “The Obama administration may be about to hand the oil industry a major victory by reducing the federal requirement for blending ethanol into fuel — a decision with big implications for farm-state politics, food prices and the nation’s energy markets.
“As early as Tuesday, the Environmental Protection Agency is expected to announce how many billions of gallons of ethanol it will require refiners to blend into gasoline and diesel fuel in 2014. If it sticks with a draft version that leaked in October, the agency will lower the amount to 2012 levels.”
During a speech on Friday in New Orleans, President Obama indicated that, “So helping American businesses grow; creating more jobs — these are not Democratic or Republican priorities. They are priorities that everybody, regardless of party, should be able to get behind. And that’s why, in addition to working with Congress to grow our exports, I’ve put forward additional ideas where I believe Democrats and Republicans can join together to make progress right now.
“Number one, Congress needs to pass a farm bill that helps rural communities grow and protects vulnerable Americans. For decades, Congress found a way to compromise and pass farm bills without fuss. For some reason, now Congress can’t even get that done. Now, this is not something that just benefits farmers. Ports like this one depend on all the products coming down the Mississippi. So let’s do the right thing, pass a farm bill. We can start selling more products. That’s more business for this port. And that means more jobs right here.”
And Michael D. Shear reported in Saturday’s New York Times that, “There are regular West Wing meetings on transportation, college affordability and a new farm bill.”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “Ending years of painful delays, House-Senate talks began on a new farm bill Wednesday, with renewed promises to finally complete the task by the end of December.
“‘We can do it, we have to do it,’ said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) ‘There are 16 million men and women whose jobs rely on the strength of agriculture,’ echoed his Senate counterpart, Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). ‘I am confident we won’t let them down.’”
David Rogers reported yesterday at Politico that, “When the farm bill conference meets Wednesday afternoon, it will be on a grand stage: the gilded Ways and Means Committee meeting room in Longworth with its sculpted eagles and history of past bargains.
“The challenge for negotiators is to think as big and bold.
“The Agriculture Committees argue—somewhat defensively— that they have already taken major steps. Both bills end the current system of direct cash payments to producers—costing about $4.5 billion annually. At the same time, organic and specialty crops gain modest ground. Much tighter payment limits are imposed on future subsidies. More of an effort is made to help only producers who have put seed in the ground, put themselves at risk and experienced a loss.”
Ed O’Keefe reported in today’s Washington Post that, “Next week, Congress is expected to revive an old but increasingly rare tradition that may determine how well and how quickly the institution is able to recover from all the negative fallout of the recent government shutdown.
“More than three dozen members of the House and Senate plan to sit down in a room together and begin sorting out big differences on competing versions of a large piece of legislation.
“Members of the House and Senate agriculture committees announced plans Wednesday to begin meeting to negotiate details of a new Farm Bill. The agriculture conference committee is a back-to-the-future moment for Congress, which in recent years has subverted the once long-standing practice of having conferees from the House and Senate meet to negotiate final versions of legislation passed in each chamber.”
The article noted that, “‘It’s long overdue,’ said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who chairs the Agriculture Committee.”
“Rep. Frank D. Lucas (R-Okla.), the House Agriculture Committee chairman, will chair the meetings, which will begin Wednesday afternoon with a format that permits all 41 members to make public statements. From there, the path forward is unclear,” the article said.
“‘I personally believe that we can come up with a consensus bill,’ Lucas said Wednesday.”