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Farm Bill Talks Inch Forward

Farm Bill Talks Inch Forward

Would a standalone farm bill make it through Congress? There's talk of merging into bigger budget measure.

The government shutdown enters its second week with plenty of talks going on and furloughed Defense workers heading back to the office. But the wrangling goes on.

Behind the scenes farm bill discussions have been happening too. Once the House agreed to combine the nutrition title with the farm title for conference committee discussion, the Senate conference committee was renamed. It was the same list he'd appointed earlier when it appeared a farm bill conference was imminent.

BEYOND THE SHUTDOWN: Eventually Congress has to deal with a host of issues, and the farm bill remains top of mind.

And while the House has voted to move a farm bill toward conference there's no word on when Speaker John Boehner will appoint a conference committee. Traditionally many members have come from the House Ag Committee but the National Journal reports that there is pressure to add some conservative Tea Party members to the list.

That could change the course of the discussion. Remember, the House farm and nutrition bills include significant cuts to nutrition spending - 10 times what the Senate has proposed. Pulling together a compromise on that area of the bill will be the most difficult job. Hill observers have said they see conservatives positioning themselves in ways that could make it difficult to accept anything less than the full cuts passed; a position that the Senate won't accept.

That same article also notes that Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., is proposing that the farm bill might be part of a bigger budget package, rather than a standalone measure. Whether that will materialize remains to be seen.

Continued talks are a good sign, but whether anything will happen anytime soon remains to be seen. While the shutdown continues the next big challenge is raising the debt limit, which the Treasury Secretary says must happen by Oct. 17 or there could be significant consequences.

At the core of this entire debate is the rising debt crisis and what actions should be taken. Tea Party supporters are in favor of significant changes to not only nutrition programs but crop insurance as well. Significant challenges remain.
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