The House and Senate have agreed on a budget framework for the Farm Bill that according to Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is "pretty good." It operates under the assumption that the $10 billion above baseline that was agreed upon will be found by the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees. They are still trying to find offsets to provide that funding, which Harkin says is the problem keeping the bill from going forward.
"Our ag committee, we're fine," Harkin says. "We've basically worked out all except for a few minor tweaks here and there. We're trying to accommodate all the various expectations and demands with this limited funding, but we've come a long way and I think in the end we can have a pretty decent bill. Now it's just where the money comes from."
Reform continues to be a big issue for the Farm Bill and Harkin expects much debate on payment limits and other proposed reform measures when the bill gets to the conference committee. He says he supports reform but doesn't know if the votes are there to pass them because several conference committee members are set against them.
"My thing all along has been to remain flexible," Harkin says. "We've got a framework that's pretty darn good. I'm not happy with some of the cuts that were made in conservation and energy, but we've got to get the bill done. Overall I can support it, it's better than nothing and certainly much better than an extension."