The initial session of the House-Senate conference on the nearly $1 trillion 2013 farm bill was held Wednesday.  Opening statements of the conferees — 12 from the Senate and 29 from the House — lasted a little over two hours and, although the well documented differences were apparent, the session overall was conciliatory in tone.  Almost all of the 41 members from both the Senate and House Agriculture Committees agreed that it is time to finish up negotiations on the multiyear farm bill.

Some of the big issues facing the conference include funding for the food stamps program, composition of an insurance-based farm safety net to replace direct payments, whether such crop insurance should be linked to conservation requirements, country-of-origin labeling, dairy price supports, Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyards Administration rulemaking, and livestock disaster assistance.

The four principal negotiators — House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), House Agriculture ranking member Collin Peterson, (D-MN), and Senate Agriculture ranking member Thad Cochran (R-MS) — said they would work every day during the upcoming recess to try to form an agreement but no second meeting has been set.  “It depends on how the process evolves,” Lucas said.

Staff from both sides of the Capitol have been meeting for weeks to reach agreement on as many issues as possible, the farm bill conference leaders said.  The House has left for the week and will not return until the week of November 11.