Tentative farm bill deal reachedCongressional negotiators reached a tentative agreement Friday on a multibillion-dollar farm bill that includes a hefty increase for nutrition programs at a time of rising food prices.
By: Associated Press, Worthington Daily Globe
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional negotiators reached a tentative agreement Friday on a multibillion-dollar farm bill that includes a hefty increase for nutrition programs at a time of rising food prices.
An intense series of closed-door bargaining sessions over how to pay for the five-year, roughly $280 billion bill ended Friday afternoon with senior Democrats expressing optimism that they would soon be sending the measure to President Bush.
“I don’t think there’s any question now that we can get this done by the eighth of May,” said Rep. Collin C. Peterson, the Minnesota Democrat who heads the Agriculture Committee.
A key breakthrough came when senior lawmakers, after an hours-long huddle in an ornate room in the Capitol, agreed on a $1.7 billion package of tax breaks to be included in the bill, and on how to finance the overall package.
The outline includes an $861 million increase for nutrition programs over 10 years, partially paid for by slashing crop subsidies by $400 million and cutting a program to pay farmers for ruined crops by $250 million. Even though the legislation covers five years, congressional budget analysts estimate programs over a decade.
Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said the shift was “urgently needed because of the run-up in food costs and food prices.”
It also reflected the political and economic realities surrounding this year’s tough farm bill talks. With crop prices high and the federal budget squeezed, there’s less appetite in Washington for big farm programs, especially among congressional leaders who hail from urban areas. The sharp economic slump has many lawmakers focused more on job losses and home foreclosures than farm policy.