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Time Slipping Away For Farm Bill

Time Slipping Away For Farm Bill

A Farm Bill compromise may be on the way from Sen. Pat Roberts, but the bill isn't on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's immediate 'to-do' list

Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., may have a plan in mind to compromise on the stalled farm bill, according to a recent interview with Politico.

The Senator said he is prepared to compromise on a commodity title and target prices.

"'There are a lot of things in the five-year farm bill that are absolutely essential,'" Roberts told Politico. "'For me it's crop insurance, because we've been through a two-year drought and now we're headed for three. We would just be in terrible shape if we didn't keep the improvements to crop insurance.'"

A Farm Bill compromise may be on the way from Sen. Pat Roberts, but the bill isn't on House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's immediate 'to-do' list

Roberts' new position may allow agriculture committee leaders to work towards a House and Senate consensus, possibly to include the farm bill in fiscal cliff talks.

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack met with leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees on Thursday to discuss the bill, though no joint statement was filed.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor hasn't charted a definitive course for the bill, either, though it hasn't been dodged completely.

In a floor statement Friday, Cantor said he and Speaker John Boehner will "deal with the issue" of the farm bill before leaving this year. However, he predicted it won't have the votes to pass in the House.

"We understand the importance of the issues surrounding the farm bill and working with Chairman Lucas and others," Cantor said. "But on both sides of the Capitol, we look forward to hopefully reaching some type of resolution on issues surrounding the farm bill prior to leaving this year."

Cantor's statement – a reply to Minority Whip Steny Hoyer's prodding – received a candid response.

"Obviously if we don't pass something by Dec. 31, on Jan.1, price support prices for the Federal Government will go up very dramatically, as the gentleman knows, and that will have an impact on spending. And I know the gentleman and I are both concerned about that," Hoyer said.

Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Frank Lucas echoed Hoyer's concerns Thursday in a radio interview in his home state of Oklahoma.

"I have said for months now that, whether it's the $23 billion in savings that the Senate version of the bill achieves or the $35 billion in entitlement reforms and savings the House bill achieves, if there is indeed some kind of a big agreement worked out to address the national debt, the taxes, the cuts, they need offsets, savings in other places, to make those adjustments," Lucas said in the interview. "And agriculture, at $35 billion, is willing to do its part in the House committee version of the bill, so there is a place for us."

Though Lucas is holding out hope to finish a five-year farm bill, he said the "fiscal cliff" negotiations are sapping political oxygen.

"In all fairness, while the candle has not gone out completely, it's flickering rather dimly," Lucas said.

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