President George Bush signed an extension of the 2002 Farm Bill that Congress approved last week. It continues current farm legislation until April 18. Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer says the extra time was needed to move the process forward.
"The leaders I've talked to are working hard to come to agreement on the differences between the House and Senate so we can come together with the administration and get a farm bill," Schafer says. "
House Ag Committee Chair Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and ranking member Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., met with Senate Ag Committee Chair Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and ranking member Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. on Friday before Congress recessed for a two-week break. Earlier in the week, Peterson and Goodlatte had put forward the idea of writing a baseline bill because of the struggle between House Ways and Means and Senate Finance to reach agreement on how to fund the $10 billion above baseline that Congress and the White House had agreed upon. However following Friday's meeting the leaders instructed staff to continue working on a bill about $10 billion over baseline.
Discussions Harkin and Chambliss had with Senate Finance leaders convinced the House to continue for moment at least with that level of funding. According to Goodlatte if the committees can not come up with the money needed the baseline bill will be the fallback plan.
"It's important that we get a farm bill soon," Schafer says. "So that our farmers and ranchers understand the rules under which they are going to be working as they work on their planting and financial decisions."