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Grassley minimizes chance of farm bill veto

Agriculture.com Staff 01/03/2008 @ 4:31pm

Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters Thursday that he believes compromise is still possible between Congress and the White House as a conference committee hammers out final details of a farm bill this month.

That's why he hasn't given up on his push for some for of payment limitation in the final bill that will be written by members of both the House and Senate agriculture committees. Grassley said the White House has been a strong proponent of reform and he expects it to be involved in the conference committee process.

"I'm assuming senators and congressmen will pass a bill that will be signed," Grassley said.

"I'm not giving up on payment reform," he said. A majority of Senators, 56, voted for reform but that fell short of the 60 needed to end a possible filibuster. So an amendment sponsored by Grassley and Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) to cap farm program payments at $250,000 was withdrawn.

Grassley said he doesn't think that tax issues in the Senate version of a farm bill will lead to a veto, partly because they involve tax credits given to farmers for involvement in conservation programs. "It's not just raising taxes to juice up farm programs," he said.

If Congress and the Bush administration can't reach agreement on a final bill, Grassley said that a two-year extension of the current farm program is the next most likely option.

Grassley said he will serve on the conference committee because he is the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee, which came up with extra funding for the farm bill. He said he’s not certain whether he will be able to participate in conference committee negotiations that got beyond finance issues but he intends to also fight for a ban on packer ownership of livestock, which is in the Senate version of a farm bill but not the one passed by the House last summer.

When asked about how the presidential candidates in Iowa view farm issues, Grassley had a favorable view of the candidates running in both parties.

"I think all of them recognize the importance of agriculture to the Midwest and to the economy as a whole," he said. And they've been supportive of agriculture's role in providing more energy independence for the nation, he said.

When asked to predict winners, Grassley said he believes that among Democrats, Barack Obama will come in first, John Edwards second and Hillary Clinton third. In the Republican party he expects a close race between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. The surprise of the evening will be a strong third-place showing by John McCain, Grassley said.

Grassley said that the Arizona Senator is likely to win the New Hampshire primary and that he is viewed by many Republicans as the GOP candidate with the best chance of defeating Senator Hillary Clinton, which Grassley expects to be the Democratic nominee even if she doesn't win in Iowa.

Senator Chuck Grassley told reporters Thursday that he believes compromise is still possible between Congress and the White House as a conference committee hammers out final details of a farm bill this month.

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