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Farm Bill not expected until January

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and House Agriculture Committee Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., during a Dec. 4 break in negotiations on the farm bill.

Congress won’t pass a farm bill before early next year.

That was the message from Washington Tuesday, when the principal farm bill players emerged from negotiations and announced they won’t have a full bill ready before the House adjourns for the year on Friday.

The biggest question left this week: Will lawmakers build a sturdy enough framework for a farm bill deal that ensures quick passage of a full farm bill in early January? The principle negotiators have intimated they’ll be able to all but pass the bill, but that remains to be seen. The door will be open for more delays if they leave Washington with more real work to do in January.

Here’s what NPR’s Tamara Keith reported from Washington:

"We're going to pass it in January," said Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., as she left a closed-door meeting to negotiate details of the five-year farm bill. Her House counterpart, Frank Lucas, R-Okla., stood next to her, nodding. "I believe that's the scenario that you'll see," said Lucas.

Rep. Frank Lucas, the Republican chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, told Politico he would file a bill that extends the farm bill through January 2014, likely in an effort to buy time and avert the so-called “dairy cliff.” The House could pass that bill before its session ends, extending more time for negotiations.

Rep. Colin Peterson and Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the principal Democrats in the negotiation, say they oppose any extension.

The announcement of more delays is not a shock. The original farm bill expired September 2012 and a nine-month extension, passed in the waning hours of 2012, expired on Sept. 30, 2013.

The farm bill odyssey continues.

Harvest Public Media, a reporting collaboration of several public media stations in the Midwest, covers issues of food and food production.