Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Senate Finding Money for Farm Bill

The Senate Finance Committee has been busy trying to free up some money to pay for this years farm bill and have 2 major ideas on how to do so:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee unveiled a plan on Tuesday to pay for two major elements in the new U.S. farm law -- disaster relief and land preservation work, which together cost as much as $10 billion.

Chairman Max Baucus outlined a tax package that "will offer real support to hard-working producers" and effectively free up money for the Agriculture Committee to use in its farm bill. The 2002 farm law expires at the end of this month.

A Montana Democrat, Baucus proposed a disaster trust fund to offset farm and ranch losses not covered by crop insurance. In addition, land owners could take tax credits instead of cash payment for land preservation. No date was set for the Finance Committee to draft the package.

But not all Senate Democrats are happy:

The Senate Agriculture Committee could complete action on its farm bill during the week of Sept. 24, Chairman Tom Harkin said today. But a major conflict is shaping up on funding between Harkin and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

Harkin said today that additional funding needed for his committee's farm bill has not been forthcoming during negotiations with the Finance Committee. "One of the reasons we don't have a bill yet is that we have not been able to get anything out of the Finance Committee," he said during a press call.




But even more troubles may lie ahead because of the Doha round of negotiations on free trade:

he scene comes to mind after reading press accounts of a late August Farm Bill forum in North Dakota.

At the gathering, House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, guest of Sen. Kent Conrad, a senior Democrat on the Senate Ag Committee, was asked to explain how the 2007 House Farm Bill fits the Bush administration's negotiating strategy in the Doha Round of endless world trade talks.

It fits fine, said Peterson, because U.S. farm program spending under the 2007 House plan drops from a now WTO-legal $19 billion a year to an estimated $8 billion a year, or well within the 60 percent cut the Bush Administration conceded to World Trade Organization talkers a year ago.

A bigger story, Peterson asserted, is the now-80 percent cut in program benefits the White House wants "to ... bail them out of this trade mess they are in. But ... they are negotiating with themselves."


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