Farm bill negotiators broke major new ground toward a long-sought deal, even as a leading agriculture lobby urged rival commodity groups Wednesday to “close ranks” behind a final package this winter, according to a report in Politico.
Staff was closeted still working out the details and much will depend on final scoring from the Congressional Budget Office. But both sides made important concessions in the course of an hour-long closed-door meeting Wednesday of the four top principals from the House and Senate Agriculture committees.
The House moved off its position that all commodity subsidies be a function of a farmer’s planted acres. The Senate agreed to greater food stamp savings — albeit still far short of the $40 billion in 10 years cuts approved by the House in September.
“We’re making great progress, across the board we’re trying to bring it all together,” Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) told reporters.
“We are coming closer in every part of the bill.”
Her counterpart, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK) was cautious but decidedly more upbeat than he had been 24 hours before. “We made great progress. We have more progress to make,” Lucas said. “Let us keep working.”
Neither Lucas nor Stabenow discussed any details, but the format of Wednesday’s meeting gave Stabenow the opportunity to present what was described as a five-page response to proposals previously made by Lucas. The fact that both chairs came out smiling was a healthy sign, and after weeks of floundering there was genuine hope that the pieces of a deal could be coming together.
Indeed, the framework for the commodity title appeared to be largely in place if the compromise holds regarding base vs. planted acres. In the case of the nutrition title, the Senate moved off what had been a rigid position of rejecting any savings beyond the $4 billion in its bill.
The entire report can be viewed at http://www.politico.com.