With just a few weeks left before lawmakers take a holiday break, prospects for a speedy passage of the long-delayed farm bill appear to be fading.
The House and Senate farm bills take different approaches to rewriting commodity programs. But the biggest obstacle is the food stamp program, which makes up about 70 percent of the farm bill's overall spending of about $100 billion a year.
The House bill pushed by Republicans would cut $4 billion a year from that total. The Senate bill makes smaller cuts to food assistance - about $500 million a year.
The chairs and ranking members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees will meet tomorrow to see if an agreement can be reached. But U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat who represents Minnesota's 1st District, isn't optimistic.
"We got this thing through the House, got it through the Senate, got it to conference," said Walz, a member of the House Agriculture Committee. "I'd just like to see something to vote on."
If lawmakers don't strike a deal and pass a bill by the end of the year, dairy prices could rise due to automatic provisions of the existing farm bill.