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HOUSE PASSES EXTENSION OF CURRENT FARM BILL THRUOUGH JAN. 31
Agri-Pulse reports:

Top farm bill conferees are expected to meet Friday, after the House quickly approved legislation (H.R. 3695) Thursday, by voice vote, to extend the current farm bill through Jan. 31. The bill is considered dead in the water in the Senate.

The conferee principals may offer some details, after the meeting, of the long-awaited scores on a five-year farm bill from the Congressional Budget Office. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., told Agri-Pulse late Thursday that the conferees have been "getting numbers back, and the numbers look good." Still, Lucas did not give details. "I'm not sure all the pieces are completely in place to be able to say what that number would be," he said.

During Friday's meeting, Lucas said, "We will look to address all the things that are still open."

The current extension of the 2008 farm bill will expire Dec. 31, and lawmakers have been unable to move a five-year bill through Congress. The lack of another extension would trigger permanent law, which has caused fears of a large increase in the price of milk among other things.

The latest extension bill will not be debated in the Senate, as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said it is not necessary. Stabenow, and other lawmakers, said they expect to have a long-term deal in the first weeks of January.

However, Lucas said he wanted the House to approve the one-month extension in case the Senate decides it needs a vehicle to move an extension. The House is scheduled to adjourn for the year on Friday, while the Senate plans to stay until Dec. 20.

During a short House floor debate on the extension, Lucas said he is confident the conferees will be able to finish a report in January. Conferees appear to continue to be differing over the commodity title, nutrition title, and dairy provisions, as well as other issues.

"Cast a vote to acknowledge to folks back home that no matter what happens we will not have a dairy cliff," Lucas said to lawmakers. "Pass the extension, take care of business and we on the Agriculture Committee will take care of our business in January."

Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., argued that a short term extension is not needed because Lucas and House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., "have been working diligently...leaving a few remaining issues to be worked out."

Costa further said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has said that if a farm bill is completed in January that should not be any problems regarding potential impacts on the dairy title or cost of milk.

"Extending current programs through the end of January, when it looks like we'll be able to vote on a five-year farm bill early next year, is not necessary," Costa said.


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