Farm Bill Conferees Make Progress, But Deal Still Elusive

APRIL 16TH, 2008 | Harkin for Senate

CQ Politics

Conferees approved three of the 11 sections of a new five-year farm bill Tuesday, a small step toward finishing the measure before an extension of current law expires April 18.

House and Senate conferees unanimously agreed to the credit, trade and research titles of the bill, even though minor discrepancies remain between the two versions of the measure.

The conferees intend to meet again Wednesday, when Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin , D-Iowa, said they’ll likely adopt other titles of the bill, including nutrition, forestry and livestock.

With the House out of session Friday, the day the existing law lapses, negotiators will have to decide Wednesday whether they can reach agreement on a new five-year bill or should seek another extension.

Conferees say they need only a little more time to hammer out a deal for President Bush’s signature, but major disputes over funding for the package remain to be resolved by leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee.

It’s likely that negotiators will meet into the weekend, Harkin said.

If staff members from the two chambers cannot work out differences on various sections between now and then, Harkin said conferees will vote on each unresolved provision.

“To that, I say amen,” said House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson , D-Minn., who said he’s frustrated minor disputes still have not been settled.

While conferees say they are close to a deal on policy provisions in the bill, funding for the measure remains a problem. House negotiators object to $2.5 billion in energy tax credits the Senate insists on adding to the farm bill’s $560 billion baseline. That’s in addition to an extra $10 billion the Senate is proposing to fund new farm programs and disaster aid. | digg this | stumble it! | share on facebook