U.S. Congress, President passes farm bill extension

By Hope Deutscher | April 08, 2008
Web exclusive posted April 18, 2008 at 3:11 p.m. CST

The U.S. House, Senate and President George W. Bush all agree - the current farm bill, enacted in 2002, will be extended until April 25.

The extension gives House and Senate conferees time to resolve tax break disputes and other issues regarding the multi-billion dollar bill. The law was set to expire April 18.

A statement by Agriculture Committee Chairman, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., was posted on the U.S. House Agriculture Committee's Web site. "The Farm Bill ensures that all Americans have access to a safe, secure and inexpensive food supply and provides a safety net for farmers and ranchers," Peterson said. "It also authorizes important nutrition programs, encourages environmentally friendly conservation programs, and supports the development of agriculturally based renewable energy, which will help to reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

The 2002 Farm Bill has already been extended three previous times. The conference committee members are working out differences between legislation passed by the U.S. House in July, 2007, and a farm bill passed by the U.S. Senate in December, 2007. Among the farm bill's current provisions are tax credits for cellulosic ethanol producers, extending the ethanol import tariff and biodiesel tax credit.

Meanwhile,, April 18 senate farm bill conferees, led by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairmen of the senate committee on agriculture, nutrition and forestry and the senate-house conference committee on the farm bill, presented to House conferees a new farm bill proposal of $10 billion in additional spending for the legislation. The framework maintains the investments of the Senate-passed bill with strong farm income protection as well as investments in nutrition, conservation and renewable energy and a program to provide disaster assistance to farmers. The proposal, which is deficit neutral, includes a tax package that has been a priority for Senate conferees. A formal conference will reconvene next week to further discuss the proposal.

"The Senate has now presented two good offers to the House that strengthen farm income and disaster protection and fill in gaps in nutrition assistance, invest in farm-based renewable energy, help farmers and ranchers conserve our natural resources, and devote substantial new funding to initiatives for growers of fruits, vegetables and horticultural crops," Harkin said on the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee's Web site. "We are getting closer, but we still do not have agreement. Staff will continue to negotiate over the weekend and I have every hope that resolution will be reached. If not, as Chairman of this Conference, I intend to start calling for formal votes of the conference committee next week."

Bush has said rather than short-term extensions, if Congress can't agree on the approximately $280-billion five-year farm bill, then the current bill should be extended for another year.