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More glacial progress

Agriculture.com Staff 04/17/2008 @ 8:30pm

Wednesday, members of the farm bill conference committee approved most of the Forestry Title of the bill but behind the scenes the leadership of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee were still working on how to pay for $10 billion in new spending on the farm bill.

The Senate has proposed $10 billion plus another $2.5 billion in tax cuts that would have to be offset somehow to meet the House's commitment to so-called paygo rules.

Both sides were reported to be getting close to an agreement to include the $2.5 billion in tax cuts within the $10 billion limit on new spending that both agriculture committees have already accepted. But the House leadership was still reportedly opposed to including any tax cuts in a farm bill.

On Thursday, the Senate also passed a one-week extension of the current farm law to allow more time to wrap up a farm bill.

Amid rumors that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel are close to an agreement on farm bill funding, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) cancelled a meeting of the farm bill conference committee that he chairs.

Kate Cyrul, Majority Communications Director for the Senate Ag Committee, explained late Thursday that "Chairman Harkin and [Houes Agriculture Committee] Chairman [Collin] Peterson agreed to postpone today's scheduled farm bill conference meeting in favor of intensive meetings among key conferees in each chamber which are expected to lead directly to a joint meeting of those key conferees this evening. The conference will reconvene tomorrow morning."

When asked about any progress in the negotiations between Baucus and Rangel, Matthew Beck, a Democratic spokesman for the Ways and Means Committee, said yesterday afternoon that he had nothing to report.

Wednesday, members of the farm bill conference committee approved most of the Forestry Title of the bill but behind the scenes the leadership of the Senate Finance Committee and House Ways and Means Committee were still working on how to pay for $10 billion in new spending on the farm bill.

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