BUSH: REACH A FARM BILL DEAL NOW OR WAIT A YEAR
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While President Bush was signing a one-month extension of the current farm bill into law Thursday, he urged Congress to break a deadlock on the farm bill by April 18 or, failing that, extend the current law for at least a year. He also warned once again that he will veto a farm bill that raises taxes or fails to show sufficient reforms.
"The Department of Agriculture unveiled a reform-minded and fiscally responsible approach to supporting America's farmers and ranchers," Bush said in a statement. "My proposal would provide agriculture producers with a safety net that better targets benefits and provides funding for emerging priorities. Today's farm economy is very strong, and Congress should not miss this opportunity to reform current farm programs.
"My administration has been eager to work with Congress. We have offered legislative language and a list of potential spending offsets to ensure Congress does not increase taxes, and while insisting on significant program reforms, we have demonstrated flexibility on how to achieve real reform. I have also made it clear that any final farm bill that includes a tax increase or does not include reform will be met with a veto.
"If a final agreement is not reached by April 18, I call on Congress to extend current law for at least one year. While long-term extension of current law is not the desired outcome, I believe the government has a responsibility to provide America's farmers and ranchers with a timely and predictable farm program -- not multiple short-term extensions of current law.
"I am eager to sign a farm bill that provides a safety net for farmers, includes significant farm program reform similar to the administration's farm bill proposal and does not include tax increases. I have made clear the framework of an agreement that will garner my signature and urge Congress to pass a bill that meets these criteria."
Meanwhile, House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and the committee's top Republican, Bob Goodlatte (Va.), said they will draft another bill with no new funding during the two-week congressional recess that begins this weekend.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said farm leaders would meet today to try to reach agreement on funding, allocations and various policy issues.
Committee jurisdiction issues remain a stumbling block, with the Senate Finance Committee wanting to gain turf over conservation stewardship programs.