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Lawmakers blame weather, punt farm bill

House and Senate negotiators announced Tuesday there would not be a farm bill by the end of 2013.
 
The leaders of the Agriculture committees said they would shoot for a House-Senate farm bill conference meeting in early January and floor votes after that. 
 
They blamed bad weather in Washington for delaying budget scores that could have made a deal possible this week. 
 
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"We got a problem," Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) said. "We thought we were going to have a CBO score Monday morning. Turns out, there's two guys that do [these scores]. One of them has his work done, the other went to a wedding in northern New Jersey over the weekend and got stuck, and is still not back."
 
“The person doing the scoring is stuck in another state ... we are literally waiting on scores right now that affects our timing,” said Sen. Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowFight over water bill heats up in Senate Overnight Energy: Senate Dems set to fight water bill Senate Dems may block water bill over drought language MORE (D-Mich.).
 
“We will be ready to vote in January,” she said. 
 
She said scores could be ready to allow some kind of deal in principle by the time the Senate leaves for Christmas on Dec. 20 and that could allow a conference meeting after the congressional recess ends on Jan.7. 
 
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) also cited the lack of scores in announcing he plans to file a bill later Tuesday extending the now-expired 2008 farm bill through January. 
 
“We’ll see how we progress over the next few days, what the CBO scores are, hopefully that won’t be necessary,” Lucas said. “It is my intention is to have a vehicle before the House goes home on Friday in case there are unforeseen circumstances.”
 
Without a farm bill in January, outdated milk regulations are set to go back into effect that would spike prices.
 
Stabenow and Peterson said they are opposed to an extension and that they have been assured by the Agriculture Department that it can hold off on implementing the milk changes.  
 
Stabenow said the Senate would not take up a short-term extension because it could trigger direct farm payments that the new farm bill aims to end, at a cost to taxpayers.
 
“I am confident talking to the secretary of Agriculture just a little while ago that there will be no impacts on dairy in January,” Stabenow said. “We won’t be passing an extension.”
 
The $1 trillion farm bill would govern farm subsidies for five years. The Senate wants funding for food stamps for five years as well, while the House proposed three years of funding.
 
The House initially sought $39 billion in food stamp cuts while the Senate sought $4 billion. Observers believe negotiators could land on a compromise closer to the Senate number.
 
In exchange, the Senate is looking to adopt commodity programs closer to those designed by the House.
 
The House gives producers a choice of price-based protection and revenue-based insurance with more generous price supports than in the Senate.
 
A key problem has been the House reliance on current planting where the Senate relies more on what was planted historically. That approach decouples subsidies more clearly from production and could be more immune from trade retaliation, a key concern of corn and soybean exporters.
 
The CBO is looking at a compromise that would use the House design but base calculations on historical acreage. The scoring is complicated, because under some proposals farmers could be allowed to update their historical acreage as a one-time measure to better reflect current market risk.
 
— Mike Lillis contributed
 
— This story was updated at 5:10 p.m.