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Senate extends current farm bill by another week

Agriculture.com Staff 04/24/2008 @ 10:29am

The Senate on Thursday morning passed a short-term extension of the current farm bill, a move that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) says will yield a new bill in the near future. The extension enacted Thursday extends the current law up to next Friday, May 2.

The short extension is a response to a consensus among Senate conferees, who widely support a new bill over a one-year extension, Harkin said in a statement Thursday.

"The conferees have agreed on a majority of the provisions in this bill. One area where there is broad agreement is on the fact that we do not want a one-year extension of current law," Harkin said. "We want to finish up the good bill that we have before us."

The Iowa Democrat added he hopes Thursday's short-term extension will not only give conferees time to wrap up a new bill, but send a message to the Bush administration that a one-year extension of the 2002 bill is not wanted.

"To [finish a new farm bill] we need another short-term extension to allow the work to get completed, including the working out of the offsets and taxes issues," Harkin said. "I urge the President not just to sign that extension, but to begin to show constructive leadership in helping us to get this bill done."

Harkin had hoped for a two-week extension of the farm bill, which he said would have allowed enough time to finish all the details of writing a final farm bill, but Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) objected.

Craig had threatened earlier to not support any more extensions at all, but he said in a statement Thursday that he supports a one-week extension because he’s seen progress in negotiations between the House and the Senate over the farm bill.

"I am not here to destroy it," Craig said. "I am here to say on behalf of American agriculture, they're sensing urgency. It's time Congress senses urgency. Six months negotiating a bill in most people's minds is about long enough."

Harkin said he believes President Bush will sign the extension because if he doesn’t, farm programs will revert to 1938 and 1949 versions of farm law, which has much higher support prices for commodities and dairy products and lacks many other farm programs.

Harkin also said he sees real movement toward a compromise between the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee, who have been struggling to reach an agreement on how to pay for some new programs in the farm bill and at odds over tax cuts proposed for agriculture.

"Progress has been slow and difficult but progress has also been steady and real," Harkin said in a telephone press conference Thursday morning before going back into closed door negotiations with ag and tax writing committee leaders.

When asked for examples of real progress in the negotiations, Harkin said that both sides seemed to be coming closer to supporting a smaller package of tax cuts, which last week stood at about $2.4 billion. The House was objecting. Members of the Senate Finance Committee said that all of the tax cuts were for agriculture and were paid for with increased tax revenue from other parts of the ag economy, including reducing the tax credit for ethanol.

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