Both chambers have appointed conferees for the farm bill, and this week the four principals – Sen. Debbie Stabenow – (D-MI) and Ranking Member Sen. Thad Cochran – (R-MS) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas – (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collins Peter – (D-MN) met and agreed that meetings on the farm bill could begin the week of October 28, when the Senate returns to Washington.

The most recent agriculture law, passed in 2008 and extended in January’s fiscal-cliff-averting deal, lapsed on Sept. 30. Over the coming weeks, individual programs will expire and revert to policies set in 1949. If enough time goes by without a reauthorization, the result could be a doubling of milk prices next year.

The biggest split between the House and Senate is on food aid for the poor — the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also called food stamps. House Republicans want to divorce nutrition and crop programs by authorizing the programs for different periods of time, while the Senate’s bill would keep the traditional pairing that has fostered an urban-rural alliance for previous measures. Staff from both sides of the Capitol will be working through as many issues as can be settled on a staff level.  The first Member to Member meeting has not been formally scheduled.