Farm bill down to the wire


WASHINGTON — Senate and House farm bill negotiators remained at loggerheads Friday, April 11, after Senate conference committee members countered the House’s package.

The House proposed $5.5 billion above a five-year $280 billion baseline and no tax increases to pay for the additional spending. The Senate responded with a proposal that would boost spending by $12.5 billion over 10 years and include a disaster program and “revenue raisers.”

The “baseline” is the amount of spending that would occur over the next five years to be covered by the new farm bill if current farm programs were just extended without any changes.

“I’m not focused on simply kicking the ball down the field with another short-term extension,” said Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, who is chairman of the Senate ag committee. “We need to chart the course, set the schedule, wrap up the bill.”

House names conferees

Earlier in the week, the House appointed 49 farm bill conference committee members, including, from the agriculture committee, Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn.; Tim Holden, D-Pa.; Mike McIntyre, D-N.C.; Bob Etheridge, D-N.C.; Leonard Boswell, D-Iowa, Joe Baca, D-Calif.; Dennis Cardoza, D-Calif.; David Scott, D-Ga.; Ranking Member Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; Frank Lucas, R-Okla.; Jerry Moran, R-Kan.; Robin Hayes, R-N.C.; Marilyn Musgrave, R-Colo.; and Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas.

Thirty-five other House lawmakers from various committees of jurisdiction also were appointed to serve on the committee.

It also approved a motion to instruct House members of the farm bill conference committee to oppose raising taxes as a way to pay for the farm bill.

Clock’s ticking. The 2002 farm bill, which expired Sept. 30, 2007, and twice has been extended, is set to expire April 18.

Some insiders say if April 18 arrives with the farm bill still in limbo, odds increase dramatically that Congress will abandon efforts to write a new farm bill and will just extend the current farm bill for one or two years.

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