After years of work and more twists and turns than anyone ever anticipated, conferees for a 2013 Farm Bill are set to hold their first meeting Wednesday, Oct. 30, at 1 p.m. in Washington.
The 41 members of the conference committee, led by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), will begin their public work with opening statements, which could last several hours. It’s widely expected that conferees will have come to agreements on as many relatively minor issues as possible outside of the public eye and before official work begins.
However, the biggest sticking points remain: Title I programs, dairy assistance and spending on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. The latter of these could be the biggest impediment to a deal; the House-passed version of the farm bill included $40 billion in SNAP cuts, while the Senate-passed version included $4 billion in cuts.
Unless they work swiftly, the calendar will also soon become an enemy of conferees. Just nine weeks remain in 2013, several of which will be consumed by holidays, and both chambers will soon also face decisions on fiscal priorities including FY2014 spending beyond Jan. 15.
The first meeting of the conference committee will be webcast via the Agriculture Committee websites.