Farm Bill/Budget Update

House/Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee leaders* are very close to reaching agreement on a framework for the 2013 Farm Bill.If an agreement is reached, they will circulate the legislative language for approval among the other conferees.  This will take several weeks. The House is expected to adjourn for the year on Friday (December 13).  It is doubtful a conference report will be completed and given final approval this week.

There has been incremental progress on major sticking points such as Title I programs, Dairy, and SNAP.  According to Stabenow and Lucas’ offices the current goal is to get a “framework” agreement before Christmas recess. If this happens, staff would draft and score the agreement over the holidays.  Currently the SNAP number stands at around $8 billion.  But both sides are concerned if they lose votes—i.e. Senate losing Democrats with too big of a cut and House losing Republicans for too small of a cut.  This falls in line with recent reports from Speaker Boehner who stated on Friday that he would be inclined to provide a one month extension of the Farm Bill for the month of January.  There is little appetite from the House to include the Farm Bill in any type of continuing resolution or budget deal should one materialize in the next couple of weeks.

The House/Senate Budget Committee leaders, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), are close to reaching an agreement on a long term budget plan to fund the federal government.  The current continuing resolution expires on January 15.  The overall agreement is expected to cover the remainder of FY 14 and all of FY 15.  The Appropriations Committees would then be able to put together an omnibus appropriations package  funding the federal government through FY 14 (September 30).  An agreement would also make the FY 15 appropriations process much easier by allowing both sides to have 9 months for negotiating FY 15 spending levels.  

*(Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Ranking Minority Member Thad Cochran (R-MS) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson (D-MN)