Farm leaders in Iowa and around the country expressed cautious optimism last week as a conference committee met to begin the process of hammering out the differences in versions of the farm bill passed by the U.S. House and Senate.

The farm bill conference committee meeting, which included Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin and Iowa Rep. Steve King, didn’t produce any concrete action on bridging the gap in the two versions on farm or nutrition programs and didn’t set a date for another meeting. However, the hearing did generate a number of promises from key lawmakers to have a new farm bill in place by the end of 2013.

Some encouragement

"You have to be more optimistic today than you have been in the...