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Grassley optimistic about a farm bill agreement

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), one of a few members of the Senate and House involved in negotiations over how much money can be spent on a final version of a farm bill, told reporters Tuesday that he still believes a farm bill can be passed before the current law expires on March 15.

"I don't think that anybody wants to face the prospect of failure on this," Grassley said while visiting constituents in Iowa.

The House Agriculture Committee has proposed a spending level for the farm bill that would be some $6 billion over the budget baseline for the next 10 years. Grassley said that the Senate Agriculture Committee members want to increase spending by $8 billion to $10 billion and that he thinks a compromise of $8 billion to $9 billion will be agreed upon.

He also said that he thinks the White House will have to agree to closing some tax loopholes to help pay for the increased spending because the Bush administration had already proposed closing those loopholes in its own budget.

So far, the Bush administration has publicly said it favors the House version of farm bill spending.

Grassley said that once an agreement is made on spending for the farm bill, then the staff of both the House and Senate ag committees can start writing the least controversial sections of a final bill. Last to be decided will be controversial issues, such as how much to limit farm program payments or the level of taxable income farmers can have and still receive payments, he said.

A competition title to the farm bill, which in the Senate version of a farm bill would ban packer ownership of livestock, is another issue that will be decided at the last minute, Grassley said.

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), one of a few members of the Senate and House involved in negotiations over how much money can be spent on a final version of a farm bill, told reporters Tuesday that he still believes a farm bill can be passed before the current law expires on March 15.

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