A dedicated fund designed to help those farmers continues to be a sticking point as farm-state members of Congress struggle to come up with money to pay for the legislation passed b ythe House and Senate last year.
Those from High Plains and other drought-prone areas insist the disaster aid be part of the farm bill, saying it is often difficult to push emergency dollars for farmers through Congress. Other farm-state members have higher priorities.
Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., the chairmen of the Senate and House Agriculture Committee, proposed on Tuesday spending $2.2 billion dollars over 10 years on the so-called agriculture disaster fund, according to aides and senators familiar with the negotiations.
That is much less than the $5.1 billion over five years that was included in the Senate bill. The House included no money for the program.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee who sponsored the Senate disaster provision, said the Harkin-Peterson proposal is "dead on arrival." Sen. Kent Conrad, D - N.D., the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, said it is "unacceptable."
Farm-state members are scrambling to come up with enough money for the bill by April 18, when current law expires. Congress extended the law from March 15 last week.
President Bush 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 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.