FARM BILL NEGOTIATORS HAVE UNTIL FRIDAY
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Bush on Friday reluctantly signed a one-week extension of the existing farm bill, meaning farm policy negotiators have this week to try to hammer out additional details.
Determining how to fund the next farm bill remains the major sticking point, with Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chair Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) in the thick of the debate. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) strongly opposes the enactment of new tax incentives to fund the farm bill, and House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) is believed to share her views on this issue.
Senators on Friday released a $10 billion proposal that includes funds for a permanent disaster assistance program. The proposal is deficit neutral and includes the tax package senators have insisted on, according to a statement by Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Tom Harkin (D-Iowa). Harkin said the Senate "has now presented two good offers" to the House. He also said he intends to start calling for formal votes in the conference committee this week if sufficient progress is not made by the time negotiators next meet formally on Tuesday morning.
The Associated Press on Saturday published an analysis news piece by Mary Clare Jalonick about the situation in Congress. High crop prices, a second-term president who thinks the farm program is bloated, a tighter budget, new congressional leaders and other pressing issues are among the reasons the new farm bill is not coming together easily, Jalonick writes. "Farming, like writing a farm bill, is a volatile business," she concludes.