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Farm bill conference starts

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By Jerry Hagstrom

WASHINGTON — House and Senate farm bill conferees sounded like they wanted to reach agreement at their first and what might be their only public meeting Wednesday, but major conflicts still remain over food stamps, the commodity title, conservation compliance for crop insurance, the dairy program, country of origin labeling and the future of a law regarding the Packers and Stockyards Act.

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The House and Senate have both passed new farm bills, and the work of the conference committee is to come to agreement on a combined bill known as a conference report that can be passed by a majority of both houses and that President Barack Obama will be willing to sign.

At a session lasting more than two hours, all 41 farm bill conferees had an opportunity to make opening statements for three minutes.

In a sign that they want to cooperate, almost of all them kept to that time limit, which was set by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, ROkla., who is chairing the conference.

“We face daunting challenges; we are working in a complicated environment; we have to draft a very technical bill,” Lucas said.

Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., and Sen. John Hoeven, RN.D., both spoke about the need to re-establish the Livestock Indemnity Program in light of the recent blizzard that killed tens of thousands of cattle in the two states, although there doesn’t seem to be much controversy about that.

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