Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Farm Bill is being extended for five more weeks

In a voice vote this morning, The Senate extended the current Farm Bill through April 18 to give itself "more time to get a broad agreement on spending levels and funding sources" for the next bill, Brownfield Network reports. The House is expected to follow suit tonight. (UPDATE, March 13: The House acted today.)

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, "repeated earlier assertions that a deal on the next farm bill is 'within reach' and promising that this extension will allow lawmakers to finish work on the measure," Peter Shinn writes. "Other lawmakers issued similar statements with a hopeful tone . . . and even Oxfam America, a group that wants significant reductions in U.S. commodity support programs, expressed optimism that members of Congress will actually complete new farm legislation."

But despite the upbeat talk, passage of a new Farm Bill "remains an open question," Shinn reports. "A senior staffer on the Senate Ag Committee as recently as Tuesday told visiting leaders of a joint lobbying mission by Nebraska Cattlemen and the Nebraska Corn Board that the most likely outcome of the current farm bill stalemate is an extension of the current law for one to two years. Progress may be especially difficult, because one of the key players on the House side of the farm bill negotiations, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, has been hospitalized for the last several days and has therefore been unavailable for discussions on farm bill funding. (Read more)

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