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Ag committee leaders working on proposal, Peterson says

House Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said today that the four leaders of the agriculture committees are working on a proposal for spending cuts and a new five-year farm bill to be presented to the super committee in charge of deficit reduction as early as this weekend.

The 12-member super committee is charged with reducing the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The super committee is supposed to vote on its own full proposal, including any recommendations it incorporates from authorizing committees, by November 23. The House and Senate are supposed to consider a super committee proposal by December 23. If a super committee bill does not pass Congress, automaticallly triggered cuts would go into effect in 2013.

“We are moving along,” Peterson told The Hagstrom Report on the sidelines of a House Agriculture Committee hearing.

Peterson was referring to himself, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas, R-Okla., Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and Senate Agriculture ranking member Pat Roberts, R-Kans.

The bill that established the super committee said authorizing committees are supposed to present proposals to the super committee by Friday, October 14. Peterson said that the four agriculture committee leaders are “trying to arrive at a number” on how much they would cut in farm spending, and that the first communication to the super committee need only be a “general letter about what we are going to do.”

He said the agriculture leaders might make the Friday deadline, or submit it by Monday. The proposal would need to be fleshed out by November 1, he said.

Peterson said it is “unclear how broad” the bill will be, but that “it could potentially be a majority of the farm bill issues.”

He said the four agriculture committee leaders are trying to come up with a dollar figure in cuts to offer the super committee in exchange for being able to write most of a new farm bill themselves within the super committee process.

“I will accept a higher cut that I normally would if we can lock it in for five years and write it ourselves,” Peterson said.

He added that he would rather have the farm bill go through the super committee process than the possibility of having it brought up on the House floor with an open rule. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., has also noted that the super committee bill will require only a majority vote in the Senate, rather than 60 votes to invoke cloture.

Earlier Peterson said he did not think that the super committee process had much of a chance to work, but today he said the process has “enough of a chance that we are willing to make the effort.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, “is very committed to making this happen,” Peterson said, referring to the super committee bill. “If we can reach an agriculture deal, that will bring people on board.”

Peterson said the four leaders have not decided whether they will present the bill to their committees. “We are on a truncated timeline,” he noted.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, said Tuesday that the cut could be between $20 billion and $33 billion, according to a Reuters report. Roberts told The Hagstrom Report Tuesday that he is “hopeful” the four leaders can reach a deal.

Neither Lucas nor Stabenow has commented on the negotiations.