House and Senate Agriculture Committee leaders should convene a conference committee as quickly as possible to complete a farm bill conference report by late January or early February, farm groups have said.

The groups, which include American Farm Bureau Federation, commodity organizations and several crop insurance associations, wrote Chairmen Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and ranking members Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., urging them to name the conference committee members quickly.

“As you know, this is the time of year when farm and ranch families, along with their lenders, need to make serious financial decisions for the upcoming crop year,” the groups said. “Some farm families actually expect to head into the fields in just two months and, of course, fall-planted crops are already in the ground.

“So we cannot overstate the critical importance of completing the farm bill and having a safety net in place by late January or early February.”

The groups said they believe both versions of the farm bill passed by the House and Senate provide a strong safety net for farmers and ranchers and meet “critical new needs” in the areas of conservation, nutrition, rural development, and renewable energy.

“We are especially encouraged by the bipartisan and overwhelming support for this vitally important legislation which you and the members of your committees worked hard to craft and move forward in the face of considerable challenges,” the letter said.

Informal conference negotiations are expected to begin in early January. The House is scheduled to return from the holiday recess on Jan. 15 and the Senate on Jan. 22.

“The need to improve nutrition for children and low-income families, as well as the conservation, rural development, and renewable energy incentives advanced in the House and Senate farm bills add even greater urgency to the timely completion of this must-pass bill,” the letter said.

“We applaud the bipartisan decision of Congress to move forward on the authorization of a full, five-year farm bill,” it said. “Sound policy and long-term certainty are absolutely essential for everyone served by the farm bill and the versions produced by the House and the Senate offer both.”

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