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U.S. Lawmakers Hope a Farm Bill Agreement Can be Reached by Mid-January

By Amanda Brodhagen,

The U.S. Congress has been working on a new five-year, $500 billion farm bill for the past two years, and surprisingly, lawmakers remain optimistic that a deal can be reached early this year.

While optimism remains high, the time frame to get the job done is limited. Farm policy experts say that the window of opportunity is between now and mid-January. If the bill gets stalled again, then more problems could arise.

In the latter of 2013, the Republican controlled House voted to extend the 2008 farm law through January of this year, which included a suspension of permanent law, but the House chose not to go that route. The 2008 farm bill has been extended several times, to avoid the permanent 1940 law from kicking in. The 1940 legislation is especially problematic for the dairy industry, as supports would expire, which could see milk prices skyrocket.

There are signals that some progress has been made. The key players of the conference, Chairman Lucas, Mr. Peterson, Chairwoman Stabenow, and Senator Cochran, have said they’ve made advancements on the more controversial issues in the bill, including food stamps (SNAP) and the commodity title.

Despite some evidence that the farm bill is making headway, issues remain. Factions within the Conservative House could prove difficult for agreeing on a reasonable figure on food stamp cuts, and reuniting the farm and nutrition titles in the legislation are potential roadblocks to pass the bill.

If a farm bill deal fails, it could have long-term implications for future farm policy and American agriculture in general.

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