Late Friday leaders of the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees reached an agreement on funding for the new farm bill. The agreement provides funding at $10 billion above baseline and includes $1.7 billion in tax breaks, allowing the farm bill process to move forward.
Although most of the offsets are being funded by customs fees, some other cuts were necessary to close the gap. The ethanol tax credit was reduced from 51 to 45 cents per gallon, and subsidies and the permanent agricultural disaster aid program were both reduced. However the nutrition funding in the bill was increased. The boost in nutrition was an issue that was pushed hard for by Ways and Means Chairman, Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. According to Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the chairman of the Senate Ag Committee and the Farm Bill Conference Committee, nutrition programs will account for about two-thirds of the farm bill.
Earlier Friday President Bush signed an additional week-extension of current farm legislation to give the conference committee more time to finish the bill. With the breakthrough on funding, House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., is confident that the process can be completed quickly.
"I don't think there is any question now that we can get this done before May 8," Peterson says.