$1T farm bill deal could come Monday, House leaders say

Members of Congress have been alerted that a deal on the $1 trillion farm bill, stalled for the last three years, could come on Monday, allowing for a House floor vote next week. 

The alert went out from the House Agriculture Committee to members of the farm bill conference committee requesting that they return to town by Monday for action on the stalled legislation.

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"Conversations are ongoing and we remain optimistic that we can reach agreement in time to be on the floor next week," the alert stated.

It said that Monday could feature a conference meeting to vote on unresolved issues or a Republican conference meeting to sign the conference report. Either scenario would lead to a bill being filed with the Rules Committee by Monday night in order to allow a Wednesday vote under the House three-day layover rule.

Final issues in the farm bill have included how to structure dairy subsidies and how to deal with payment limits for subsidy and loan deficiency payments to farmers.  

On dairy, both sides are trying to find a way to provide profit margin insurance without including limits on production that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) adamantly opposes.

A compromise being worked on could include using insurance premium increases to discourage the kind of overproduction that can cause milk prices to crash and insurance payouts to spiral upward.

On payment limits, the House and Senate-passed bills lower caps on farm subsidies and tighten what critics like Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) call a massive loophole that currently makes the caps meaningless.

Under the pre-conference bills, individuals can receive no more than $50,000 in subsidies and $75,000 in loan deficiency payments on marketing loans. For a couple, that adds up to a $250,000 cap. 

In addition, the bills look to close the “actively engaged” loophole, which allows farms to add multiple managers, each able to receive subsidies up to the limit, to expand the cap. The reforms would require actual labor to receive subsidies.

The House and Senate bills have differing eligibility limits on crop insurance premium support, with the House barring those individuals with an adjusted gross income of $950,000 and the Senate setting a limit of $750,000.