New Farm Bill All But Done

Conference committee burns the midnight oil.

The Farm Bill Conference Committee spent more than six hours Thursday night into Friday morning debating issues of the various titles of the new Farm Bill. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa says all major elements have been agreed upon, and all that remains is a few details and getting the official budget scoring from the Congressional Budget Office.

"Today's adoption of all major elements of the new farm bill brings us within a few steps of the finish line," says Harkin. "The Senate-House conference committee on the farm bill is now in the final stages of a strong, bipartisan bill that that will bring new funding and better policy in core farm bill initiatives – conservation, energy, nutrition and rural development – while continuing and strengthening farm income protection."

During the session that wrapped up around 12:30 a.m. Central time Friday morning, packer ownership of livestock was stripped from the bill by the Senate so the House did not have to vote on that issue. Likewise an amendment offered by Representative Jerry Moran, R-Kan., to restore direct payments to levels of the 2002 Farm Bill failed on the House side. There was a short debate in the House on a proposal to move funds from the permanent Disaster Aid program into a couple of new crop insurance programs, but it failed.

An issue that remains to be dealt with is payment limitations. The proposal that was put together by committee leadership this week is somewhat complicated and the conference is waiting for the CBO score before taking it up.

According to Harkin the next conference meeting will not be until Tuesday.

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