Farm Bill Makes it over First Hurdle

House approves Farm Bill conference report.

Farm groups urged the House to support the Farm Bill with a strong vote and that's just what they did Wednesday afternoon, passing the legislation 318 to 106.

"I'm so proud of my team," says House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn. "It's been a real struggle, but we've got back to what this committee has always been, a bipartisan committee that works together not as Republicans and Democrats but as people that care about this country and care about agriculture; making sure that our people are the best fed and our farmers are the most successful in the world."

Representative Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., gave Peterson and the committee's ranking member, Bob Goodlatte, R-Va, great credit for keeping the bill alive and said that this is an example of what Congress can do when they work together.

"I'm very pleased that both parties cast a majority of their votes for this Farm Bill, I think that is a very significant point," Goodlatte says. "As a result we don't have a 2 to 1 majority in this vote; we have a 3 to 1 majority."

Goodlatte says he thinks the struggle of the last few months working out compromises improved on both the House and Senate bills. He pointed out that the conference report came in $4 billion less than the House bill and $5 billion less than the Senate bill.

"The bipartisanship is very clear on this legislation," Goodlatte says. "It is now time to move forward and get this passed through the Senate and implemented into law."

The Senate began debate on the Farm Bill Wednesday night. By unanimous consent they set five hours for debate that evening and 90 minutes Thursday morning before voting on the bill.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, told the Senate Wednesday that it had been a long road to get to this point but they had crafted a really strong, good Farm Bill.

"This is my seventh farm bill including my time in the House of Representatives," Harkin says. "And I've never seen a farm bill with this much support."

Once the Senate passes the bill, it will be sent to President Bush. Peterson says it will likely reach the President's desk on Tuesday. After passing the Farm Bill, the House by unanimous consent extended current farm legislation another week until Friday, May 23. If the President vetoes the bill immediately, Congress can attempt to override the veto next week prior to the Memorial Day recess.

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