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Franken: new farm bill to be similar

DANIEL LOOKER 01/05/2013 @ 4:12pm Business Editor

Senator Al Franken (D-MN) said Friday that he doesn't expect major changes when the Senate writes a new farm bill this year.


"I think we're going to pass something very similar to what we passed in June," Franken told Agriculture.com during a press conference.


Franken said he was disappointed that Congress was unable to pass a five-year farm bill before the fiscal cliff bill was passed, 


which included an extension of the 2008 farm law.


"All the farmers I talked to wanted a five-year bill," Franken said.


The 2008 extension does not include funding for some conservation programs, energy programs and disaster aid for ranchers hit by the 2012 drought and fruit growers affected by early frost. Franken said he will continue to look for ways to get funding for those programs. 


"Getting funding for anything is going to be hard," he said.


Franken had co-sponsored a bill to include agricultural disaster assistance in the Senate's $60.4 billion bill passed last year for Hurricane Sandy relief. Franken said that the ag provisions were part of the reason fiscal conservatives in the House did not take up the bill. 


This week the House passed a smaller disaster aid bill that is the first step in disaster legislation in the new Congress. 


Franken said he believes the Senate Agriculture Committee will act quickly to start writing a 2013 farm bill but he's not certain how soon the House committee will act.


On Friday, the Representative Collin Peterson of Minnesota, the ranking Democrat on House Agriculture Committee, said the he will not work on writing a new farm bill without a commitment from House leadership to bring the bill to the floor for a vote. 


"At this point, however, I see no reason why the House Agriculture Committee should undertake the fool’s errand to craft another long-term farm bill if the Republican Leadership refuses to give any assurances that our bipartisan work will be considered," Peterson said in an open letter to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA). 


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