The ban could have ended this week under an agreement worked out by negotiators on Monday, but it hasn't. Russia says it has concerns about the sanitation of the plants, although there's speculation the ban is merely retaliation for a U.S. steel embargo enacted last month.
The potential for a lingering stalemate between the two sides is reminiscent of the farm bill talks in Washington. There, lawmakers began anew this week in their efforts to iron out differences over long-term U.S. farm policy.
But the fiscal issue is just one of the obstacles to a speedy reconciliation. Among others is an anticipated push to dump the counter-cyclical dairy program in the Senate version of the legislation. The $2 billion program earmarks one-quarter of that money for 12 northeastern dairy-producing states. Observers say there's mounting opposition to the plan, especially from lawmakers representing other dairy states.
Opponents say they have the votes on the conference committee to delete the provision. But there's likely to be stiff resistance to such a move from the leading Senate Democrats on the panel, Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa and dairy compact champion Patrick Leahy of Vermont.