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House and Senate Pass One-Week Farm Bill Extension

posted on April 25, 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress passed a one-week extension of current farm law Thursday, defying President Bush by trying to find agreement on a new bill.

As negotiations on a farm bill have stumbled, Bush has asked the House and Senate to extend the law for a year or longer. He says the new legislation is too expensive and would not do enough to cut subsidy payments to wealthy farmers in a time of record crop prices.

Farm legislation passed by the House and Senate last year would cost roughly $280 billion over five years, with around two-thirds of the cost going to food stamps and other nutrition programs. Bush threatened to veto both bills.

Negotiators have been arguing for months over how to pay for the bill and still have not agreed. One of the main sticking points has been a tax package the Senate added that would give tax breaks to race horse owners, those who find endangered species on their land and the timber industry. It also would provide $5 billion for farmers who lose crops due to weather.

House members have said many of the breaks don't belong in a farm bill.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said farm-state lawmakers are "very close" to a deal on the bill but it would be impossible to finish it all by May 2, when current law would expire under the new extension.

Harkin said negotiators were discussing adding more nutrition money to the bill. That would be a concession to urban lawmakers such as House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel of New York, who has been charged along with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus with finding extra money for the legislation.

The one-week extension passed by voice vote in the House and Senate. Harkin originally asked for a two-week extension but Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, objected, saying lawmakers have taken too long to write the legislation.

Congress has now extended the law two times in as many weeks. This would be the fifth extension since the law originally expired in September.

White House spokesman Scott Stanzel said Bush is expected to sign the newest extension, but reiterated the president's comments that the "continued patchwork of short-term extensions is not serving America's farmers and ranchers well."

In a statement Tuesday, Bush called for a one-year extension and said proposals being discussed by negotiators "would fail several important tests that I have set forth."

Tags: agriculture Congress government news policy presidents