After weeks of stalemate, it appears a congressional conference committee may have produced a farm bill. Details remain sketchy, but it appears many of the reforms once contained in the measure were jettisoned in the process.
A ban on livestock ownership by packers was deleted from the measure, as was a ceiling on federal payments to individual farmers. The measure does contain provisions requiring country of origin labeling on fish and meat.
Early word is price guarantees will be increased for producers of major crops, but at week's end details remained unclear. Even-so, the nation's grain, oilseed and fiber producers were well under way with spring planting.
Early in a week which featured a full spectrum of weather the nation's corn farmers had planted 13 percent of the crop, three points ahead of the average pace. The same was true in cotton country. There 15 percent of the fiber crop has been planted. If there is a dark cloud over farm country it surely hovers above the winter wheat crop. Sixty-five percent of the crop is rated as no better than fair. A third is rated very poor or poor. Despite the bleak harvest potential of the crop prices for the grain simply are not rebounding from a three week market slide. Already at discouraging levels, wheat futures prices have plunged another 10%.