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Food stamps and the dairy market stabilization provision are two expected areas for debate for the 2013 farm bill conferees, but the surprise issue – which surfaced during the initial conference meeting a week ago – is an effort to eliminate all or at least some part of the Country of Origin Labeling law using a provision contained in the House’s version of the legislation that merely calls for a study. As it turns out the provision was placed in the bill as placeholder language by several Republican representatives for just this purpose, Pro’s Bill Tomson reports this morning.

“The discovery that the COOL farm bill provision could actually be used to do more than conduct a study came to light outside of the halls of Congress on Oct. 25 when congressional staff from 31 of the 41 conferees met with officials at the National Farm Union to brief them on issues lawmakers were concerned with in the farm bill, recounts Chandler Goule, NFU’s vice president for government relations. One Republican staff member confirmed the farm group’s fear.

“NFU has been a staunch supporter of COOL ever since it was first crafted in the 2002 farm bill and for the next seven tortuous years during delay after delay until it was fully implemented in 2009. In a letter sent Oct. 29 to the 12 senators and 29 representatives on the farm bill conference committee, NFU begs the group to not do away with the law.” Tomson’s story is available here:

OBAMA: FARM BILL TOP PRIORITY: President Obama on Friday, in a speech on exports at the Port of the New Orleans, reiterated his calls for the farm bill to be Congress’ number one priority now. “Congress needs to pass a farm bill that helps rural communities grow and protects vulnerable Americans,” Obama said. “For decades, Congress found a way to compromise and pass farm bills without fuss. For some reason, now Congress can’t even get that done. Now, this is not something that just benefits farmers. Ports like this one depend on all the products coming down the Mississippi. So let’s do the right thing, pass a farm bill. We can start selling more products. That’s more business for this port. And that means more jobs right here.”