As expected, the deliberations over a new farm bill will bleed over the holiday season with a vote expected sometime next January.

Before heading home for Christmas on Friday (December 13), the House passed a short-term extension of the 2008 farm bill aimed to calm fears about a reversion to permanent law. Hoping to maintain momentum towards a new farm bill, Senate leadership has declined to follow suit with an extension.

“It appears a farm bill deal is very close to being agreed to,” says Roger Johnson, president of National Farmers Union (NFU). Final agreement would be much closer if conferees hadn't been forced to wait on Congressional Budget Office (CBO) scorings on various provisions that have been agreed to, or being considered.

“They were hoping, until the last minute, that they’d be able to pull it all together until the winter storm kept the principal staffer at CBO, who does the non-partisan calculations of the cost of these various proposals, out of town.”

Finally, on Friday morning, upbeat conference leaders said the CBO scores had arrived and were in ranges that promise compromise between the competing farm bill versions is within reach.

Regardless, unless House Speaker John Boehner keeps the House in session for another week, there’s no way to nail the deal down, says Johnson. However, as the Senate is in session the week of Dec. 15, “it would be our strong preference, since the schedule that the House set out is entirely of their own making, to get this thing wrapped up and sent to the President for his signature before Christmas.”

But that won’t happen despite farm groups’ continuing efforts to convince the House to remain in town next week. After Christmas break, Congress won’t reconvene until a week into 2014. That means, best case, it will be another month before a new farm bill could be passed.

“The unfortunate part of this is that for many farmers, the decisions for what they’ll be doing in 2014 are already being made. In many cases, those decisions have already been made. Add another month of delay, and it makes it that much more difficult.

“It also means another month of delay before the USDA can start working on the rules that will apply” to the new laws.