President George W. Bush is urging Congress to keep current farm law for another year if a new bill isn’t ready by April.
Negotiations on a new farm bill continue to drag on as the Senate and House were forced to pass another extension of the 2002 farm bill until April 18. President Bush said lawmakers should stop relying on short-term fixes and approve at least a one-year extension if it expires without a new law in place.
According to the Agricultural Retailers Association (ARA), the two main controversial issues remain are whether to spend another $10 billion over 10 years to the $597 billion baseline and a dispute over jurisdiction between the Senate Agriculture and Finance Committees over which committee would control spending over programs.
The Bush administration has threatened to veto both the House- and Senate-passed versions of the five-year legislation that would provide $286 billion to expand farm and nutrition programs such as food stamps and farmer subsidies. The administration contends that both chambers used tax increases and funding gimmicks to pay for the bills, and lawmakers are scrambling to find new ways to finance the legislation.
A key player in the negotiations, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY), reportedly has been hospitalized in New York with the flu, which may have an effect on the funding discussions.
According to ARA, the tax relief title is in jeoparty of being dropped from the farm bill. ARA urges all members to contact their senators and representatives immediately and urge their support for keeping the Agricultural Chemicals Security Credit provision (Section 12405) of the Senate-passed farm bill in the farm bill conference agreement. Go to ARA’s grassroots Web site to send an e-mail/letter to Congress
(Sources: Associated Press, Agricultural Retailers Association)