Snagged again; farm bill negotiations hit another roadblock

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The farm bill appears to have hit another snag during negotiations between leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.

MPR News reports it's become clear the finish line for the legislation has once again been pushed back by several weeks and possibly longer.

GOP House Speaker John Boehner and U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the top Democrat on the House Agriculture Committee have hit a rift during the negotiations.

Politco reports the final action on the conference report is now likely to slip into late January.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas told Politico, "It needs to be done as soon as possible but the issues are of such magnitude I can't go until I get the issues addressed."

The latest roadblock is about whether the federal government should provide a safety net to dairy farmers. That has been something long supported by Peterson.

MPR says the safety net would replace the current price support system. Peterson is hoping to create an insurance program to protect farmers from fluctuations in feed costs. He also proposes a market stabilization program, according to MPR, that encourages farmers to reduce production when prices drop too far.

"The only thing we're saying is that if you're taking government help and the market gets oversupplied and so it starts costing the government money, that the cost should be put on the dairy farmers, not on the taxpayers," said Peterson to MPR.

Boehner, who used to serve on the Agriculture Committee, is critical of many aspects of the farm subsidy system. According to the New York Times, Boehner said he will not allow the program to be part of the final House bill.

Boehner refers to the program as a "Soviet-style" government bureaucracy that distorts the market.

During a press conference Thursday Boehner said, "I have fought off the supply and management ideas for 23 years that I have been in Congress, and my position hasn't changed. And Mr. Peterson and others are well aware of it."

Many farmers and other leaders in the agriculture community have grown impatient with the negotiations, which have continued for more than two years.

Peterson and others on the Conference Committee had hoped the Farm Bill would be wrapped up shortly after Congress returned from the holiday break.

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