Though farm bill talks heated up this week in Washington, key legislators emerged from negotiations Thursday disappointed and predicted there would be no progress until after Congress returns in December from its recess.
Optimism for a farm bill compromise bubbled up this week after leaders of the House-Senate conference committee met for hours Wednesday and said they’d made gains. But after closed-door meetings Thursday, Sen. Debbie Stabenow – a Democrat and chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee – said she was disappointed the group couldn’t reach consensus.
Both the House and Senate passed separate versions of the legislation and leaders within each Agriculture Committee are trying to hammer out details of a compromise bill that could pass both houses and be signed by the president. But the lawmakers have been working since the previous one-year extension of the bill expired on Sept. 30 and have yet to craft a deal.
Many lawmakers are still hopeful they’ll pass a new farm bill before the new year.
“I’m still cautiously optimistic that we’ll be able to get a farm bill through our conference committee,” Rep. Rodney Davis, an Illinois Republican and a member of the farm bill conference committee, told our Peter Gray.
Davis said he met Thursday with Rep. Frank Lucas, the Republican chair of the House Agriculture Committee. Lucas is one of the four main farm bill negotiators with Democrats Rep. Collin Peterson and Sen. Debbie Stabenow and fellow Republican Sen. Thad Cochran.
“Be optimistic,” Davis said. “We’re working some differences out. There’s a lot more agreement than there is disagreement and we just need to make sure that we work in a bipartisan way to come up with a good common sense solution for the areas that aren’t agreed to yet.”
With the House already on Thanksgiving break and the Senate beginning a two-week recess Friday, it’s unlikely there will be significant movement toward a final farm bill for a while.