Iowa Public Television


Farm Bill Negotiations Break Down

posted on November 16, 2007

Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. Consumers continue to struggle with tighter credit conditions and high energy prices as the reality of paying more for less hit home.

Retail sales increased only slightly in October as Americans faced various economic pressures and reduced their purchases.

The Consumer Price Index gained 3 tenths of one percent for the second month in a row as energy and food prices continue to climb.

Wall Street, still suffering from the sub-prime mortgage crisis had a mid-week spike but lost nearly all it had gained by close on Friday.

One of the elements fueling this economic engine is agriculture. But out in the country, farmers are still waiting for a signal from Washington that planning for planting can begin.


Farm Bill Negotiations Break Down

At the beginning of the week, Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, was still trying to move a $288 billion Farm Bill through the Senate.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa: "We've been on the farm bill for a week and we're stuck because we can't get from the minority side a list of amendments that we can agree to."

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Georgia: "There is hopefully going to be an agreement here shortly that will allow us to proceed in the regular order for consideration of amendments."

The main sticking point has continued to be the control of amendments introduced for debate. Last week, Majority Leader Harry Reid decided that only germane amendments would be allowed on to the floor. But many Republican Senators fought Reid's decision and debate came to a stop.

Typically, a bill introduced into the Senate can have any kind of amendment brought up for consideration regardless of subject. The 2007 Farm Bill has more than 200 amendments pending including ending the Iraq war, repealing the estate tax, changing the renewable fuels standard, and capping the payment of subsidies.

In addition to the in-fighting in the Senate, the White House has stated it remains committed to a veto if the Farm Bill comes to President Bush's desk in its present form.

The veto threat has angered several farm state lawmakers. Among them is Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, often a supporter of Bush Administration policy.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa: "It's stupid to talk of vetoing a bill that is only through one house, not thru the second house. The time to put pressure on that you might veto a bill when there's negotiations between the House and Senate. So I'd say they're about two months early."

As business continued through out the week there was plenty of work behind the scenes. Finally, in an attempt to get the bill through the Senate before the Thanksgiving recess, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid filed petitions for cloture. Cloture limits debate to 30 hours and, once debate is completed, a vote must be held.

At the end of the week, negotiations broke down and the Senators left for their two-week Thanksgiving break. The next opportunity to take up the bill will be in December.


Tags: agriculture Congress government news policy