House-Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee leaders (Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) and Ranking Minority Member Thad Cochran (Miss.) and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas (Okla.) and Ranking Minority Member Collin Peterson (Minn.)) continued to work this week to reach agreement on the framework for a 2013 Farm Bill. Once an agreement is reached, staff will then have to put it into legislative language and get approval by the other conferees. The Senate plans to recess Friday, Dec. 20, until the week of Jan. 6, and the House will reconvene that week as well. It is not expected that the Senate will approve the one-month Farm Bill extension (through Jan. 31) approved by the House last week before it recesses later today. If an agreement is reached early in the new year, House-Senate conferees could meet the week of Jan. 6 to finalize a conference report, which would then be voted on by the House and Senate.
Earlier this week, the Senate approved by vote of 64 to 36, www.senate.gov/legislative/LIS/roll_call_lists/roll_call_vote_cfm.cfm?congress=113&session=1&vote=00281, the two-year budget agreement (H.J.Res. 59) negotiated by Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (Wisc.). The plan sets overall spending levels for the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2014 and all of FY 2015. It was passed last week in the House by an overwhelming vote of 332 to 94. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation into law.
Now the House and Senate Appropriations Committees will be able to begin work on an omnibus appropriations package to fund the federal government for the remainder of FY 2014 (through Sept. 30). The current FY 2014 Continuing Resolution expires Jan. 15. The two-year agreement should also make the FY 2015 appropriations process much easier. However, for Foreign Agriculture Service's Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development (FMD), completion of the Farm Bill will be needed in order to provide FY 2014 funding for the programs.
As reported earlier, unfortunately under the two-year budget agreement, sequestration remains in effect for all of the mandatory non-exempt programs.