Congress, White House appear closer on farm bill

by Josh Sosland
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WASHINGTON — Farm bill passage appeared more likely last week after new proposals were introduced by congressional lawmakers. The proposals sought to reduce costs of the farm bill in order to meet White House demands.

In a letter to Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, leaders of the House Committee on Agriculture said new approaches are needed to "produce a farm bill that can be signed by the president." Toward that end, Collin C. Peterson, chairman, and Bob Goodlatte, ranking Republican, offered what they described as an outline for spending that "we believe can be achieved and become law."

"It is our belief that if we can begin with a common framework, the work of finalizing the bill can proceed more quickly," the congressmen said.

The proposals included stricter limits on subsidies paid to higher-income farmers and reduced spending on federal nutrition programs.

Commenting on the House efforts, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer expressed appreciation for what he called "great work."

"While there is still hard negotiating ahead on a number of items, w are pleased with our progress on budget issues," he said.

Still, leading members of the Senate Agriculture Committee expressed doubts about the proposals. Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over the bill, said the proposal "isn’t going to fly."

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