By Erik Wasson - 01/09/14 03:04 PM EST
Farm bill 'highly unlikely' this week, Lucas says
Hopes for completing a farm bill this week have all but vanished.
House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) said Thursday any meeting of the conference committee to sign off on a deal was “highly unlikely" this week.
At this point, nothing is slate for Monday either, he said.
Lucas told reporters the controversial issue of dairy production limits in the farm bill has not been settled, despite strong statements earlier in the day by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that he was “confident” the provisions would not be in the conferenced bill.
“Still lots of conversation, and I wouldn’t define any changes in the dairy situation since we last visited,” Lucas said.
“I would say he was just reinforcing a view that he has,” Lucas said of his party leader.
Dairy has proved especially thorny because House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson (R-Minn.) and his block of rural Democrats are seen as crucial to passing the farm bill.
The proposed compromise measure is said to have $9 billion in food stamp cuts, far less than the $39 billion in the House-passed measure and the $154 billion originally sought by Tea Party conservatives.
Lucas said his negotiations with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) are still revolving around how to calculate payment limits for farm subsides as well.
Negotiators had hoped to set up farm bill votes next week before the House leaves for a weeklong recess. The schedule after the recess is tight with House Republicans heading off to a party retreat.
The 2008 farm bill expired on Oct. 1, and as time goes on, the expirations will start to affect farmers' planting decisions. At this point, the Agriculture Department is holding off on reverting milk policies to decades-old measures that would have the effect of spiking milk prices. It remains unclear how long the USDA can refuse to implement the law.