The proposals for compromise between the House and the Senate on the farm bill need Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scores, said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) this week.  Stabenow also said that the meeting on Wednesday with the other three principal farm bill negotiators – Senate Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Thad Cochran (R-MS), House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (R-OK), and House Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) has been a good discussion about a broad framework, but that the bill needed to be scored by CBO. Asked whether the four principals would meet Tuesday when the House and Senate return after Veterans Day, Stabenow said the four are in constant communication.

The two weeks beginning this Tuesday are likely to determine whether Congress will finish the farm bill this year. Both the House and the Senate will be in session during that time, but both chambers are scheduled to leave on November 22 for the Thanksgiving break. That schedule would mean that members would return on December 9 for another two-week session before they are expected to depart on December 20 for the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Although the House- and Senate-passed farm bills do not expire at the end of December because the congressional session will continue for another year, Congress is under pressure to finish the farm bill by then.  That pressure is, in part, to avoid another round of headlines about milk prices skyrocketing if permanent farm laws from 1938 and 1949 go into effect.

Congress only has until January 15 to figure out how to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year or face another government shutdown, as the continuing resolution that funds the government at the present time expires on that date. Presently, the Senate is expected to return January 6, while the House is scheduled to come back into session on January 7.