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Frustrated farmers hope Washington can muster votes for new farm bill

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Farmers in Minnesota are frustrated as lawmakers in Washington have been unable to pass a farm bill.

The Associated Press reports that new enrollment in conservation programs have been halted and farmers are worried about disruptions in farm prices next year if no bill gets passed.

In the report, Melrose dairy farmer Dennis Ritter said, "Everything's up in the wind right now, we need a stabilized market."

Farmers have been in a state of flux because the one-year extension of the farm bill expired Sept. 30. Also the federal government shutdown put a stop to most U.S. Department of Agriculture functions for the first two weeks of October. That delayed payments to farmers and interrupted crop reports.

The House and Senate passed different versions of a farm bill, their disagreements are based largely on cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The House approved about $40 billion in cuts for food stamps, while the Senate wants reductions of $4 billion.

The House-Senate conference committee is expected to meet later this month to begin negotiations on the bill.

U.S. Sen. Al Franken told reports Tuesday that he thinks the government shutdown could improve the odds of lawmakers reaching accord. The St. Cloud Times reports that Franken said it may increase a sense of urgency in Washington.

President Barack Obama identified passaged of a new Farm Bill as one of his top priorities for the rest of 2013.

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar expressed similar sentiment on a tour through southern Minnesota on Sunday and Monday. Klobuchar is on the committee that will negotiate the bill. She said if lawmakers can not pass a farm bill by the end of the year, the country will revert back to 1949 farm law, which she believes will cause milk prices to double.

In addition to Klobuchar, two other Minnesotans are on the committee, Democratic U.S. Reps. Collin Peterson and Tim Walz.

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