Congress still trying to resolve assorted budget differences

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WASHINGTON – The House and Senate approved a budget resolution back in April, but it’s crunch time to iron out the details in a reconciliation package.
And the devil is always in the details.
The Senate and House ag committees had to figure out how to cut spending by $173 million in fiscal year 2006, and by $3 billion over the next five years.
In the House and in the Senate, eight authorizing committees, including the committees on agriculture, revamped their original budgets and shipped them back to the Budget Committee where the packages will be lumped together in the omnibus reconciliation package.
The Senate Agriculture Committee proposal passed Oct. 19 by an 11-9 vote. The House Ag Committee passed its proposal Oct. 28 by a 24-20 vote.
The process has been contentious, at best, or as Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., put it, “The budget process is a mess this year.”
House version. In the House package, representatives cut direct payments in the commodity programs and eliminated the Step 2 cotton program.
Conservation programs were hit with a $760 million cut over five years; rural development programs, $446 million; and energy programs, $23 million.
The House also cut research programs $620 million.
The biggest portion of the budget, the food stamp program, took a hit of less than a half of 1 percent, but it totals $844 million over five years.
On the Senate side. The Senate version included a 2.5 percent cut for all program payments in 2006 through 2010 crop years.
It would also limit the Conservation Security Program, reduce the acreage cap for the Conservation Reserve Program and limit Environmental Quality Incentives Program spending.
The proposals are expected to reach a vote before the full House and Senate this week.

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