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Schafer says Bush administration still wants a new farm bill

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer told farmers at the Commodity Classic in Nashville Friday that a new farm bill is important to their industry and that the Bush administration wants a new law if it doesn't include tax increases and if it has real reform.

"The House and Senate are moving closer to coming up with an agreement" on spending for the farm bill, Schafer said, although he told reporters afterwards that he still hasn't gotten word if the talks have succeeded.

The administration has moved from wanting a farm bill that spends no more than $4.5 billion over a budget baseline over the next 10 years to an agreement with House Agriculture Committee members to spend $6 billion more. Farm group leaders at the Commodity Classic expect that the final deal between the House and Senate may be the range of $9 billion to $10 billion over baseline.

Schafer also repeated the administration's support for a revenue-based program in the commodity title, a high priority of the National Corn Growers Association but not the American Soybean Association and National Wheat Growers Association.

Schafer said talks between the House, Senate and administration on farm bill spending are continuing.

"It's very important to your industry that they succeed," he said. Without a new farm bill, the Bush administration's efforts to reform agricultural trade will be hampered and new investments in conservation will be left behind.

The 2002 farm bill was a good law but the administration doesn't favor an extension, Schafer said. "Really, the time for that legislation has passed."

When asked at a press conference if the administration is willing to spend $10 billion over the baseline on a new farm bill, Schafer repeated its support for $6 billion more.

"The administration, myself personally and the USDA are not willing to look at increased spending if it is not generated by reform," Schafer said.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer told farmers at the Commodity Classic in Nashville Friday that a new farm bill is important to their industry and that the Bush administration wants a new law if it doesn't include tax increases and if it has real reform.

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