April 18, 2008
April 18, 2008 - President Bush today will sign the one-week extension of current farm law passed by both chambers of Congress earlier this week, as Farm Bill conferees reconvene this morning to continue negotiations on the bill. The stalemate continues over the inclusion of a $2.5 billion tax package. Meanwhile, Senate conferees have prepared a new offer that would scale back the tax package to $1.8 billion.
At one point on Wednesday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (Minn.) suggested the tax package would no longer be part of the deal. Sources say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) told conferees that she opposes the tax credits because they are too costly and she disagrees with some of the tax credits. However, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (Mont.) said the tax provisions were necessary in order to get at least 60 votes to pass the Farm Bill in the Senate.
During Wednesday's conference committee meeting, conferees approved most of the forestry title of the bill. Discussions also took place on the Commodity Reauthorization Act. The conference committee also announced earlier in the week its approval of the credit, research and trade titles of the bill. There are 11 titles in the new five-year Farm Bill.
On Thursday, the conference was scheduled to meet; however, it was postponed twice and finally canceled. A formal meeting of the conference will take place today with informal meetings among conferees and committee staff continuing throughout the weekend.
According to staff sources, House leadership moved the bar with Pelosi now saying the conferees must increase nutrition spending by an additional $1 billion and cut direct commodity payments and permanent disaster spending by $2 billion.
The Farm Bill, which comes up about every five years, is a powerful piece of legislation because it affects much more than agriculture. It funds nutrition programs like food stamps, foreign food aide, environmental and energy programs, and it sets farm policy and spending priorities through 2012.
On July 27, 2007, the House passed its version of the Farm Bill by a vote of 231-191. On Dec. 14, 2007, the Senate passed its version of the Farm Bill by a vote of 79-14. But the House and Senate have yet to reach an agreement on a final bill. The current Farm Bill expires at midnight tonight, April 18. Staff contact: Peter Orwick, ext. 33