The Administration has been adamant that if Congress can not complete a new farm bill by April 18, they will request a one or two year extension of the 2002 Farm Bill. However; Ag Secretary Ed Schafer says another short-term extension is possible.
"If we are kind of just doing the last paragraph of the work we could look at another short-term extension," Schafer says. "But if we are in the same position we are today, with vast differences between the House and Senate and we're not making any progress, then I would not be able to recommend to the President to sign another short-term extension."
Although a long-term extension has not been looked on favorably by many in Congress, Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is wavering. He says if April 17 rolls around and they don't have a bill done, the existing Farm Bill should be extended for a year. However; Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, say he is not interested in "kicking the can downfield with another short-term extension."
"It's time Congress came together and gets a new farm bill," Harkin says. "We have 10 days to finish it; we need to work hard for the next week and get it done."
According to Harkin progress is being made on non-controversial items in the Farm Bill but the two things that are holding it up is detailing the source of the $10 billion that has been agreed upon and the disagreement between the House and Senate on a tax package. He says Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and House Ways and Mean Chairman Charles Rangle, D-N.Y., have met this week and at this point the ball is in their court.