Funding Deal Needed for Farm Bill

Congress needs an agreement with administration on funding before conference committee can negotiate final bill.

The White House has several objections to both the Senate and House versions of the Farm Bill that were passed before the Christmas recess, chief among them is how it is funded. Acting Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner has continued to speak out about the need for reform in conference committee and the possibility of a Presidential veto.

"Without fundamental change, the President's senior advisors of which I am one will strongly recommend that he veto the farm bill," Conner says. "If this farm bill looks anything like what we've seen coming out of the House or Senate, the very strong recommendation to the President is simply going to be veto, go back, and do it again."

Congressional staff has been working during the recess to resolve as many differences in the two chambers versions, but the issue that must be resolved before real work can begin is reaching an agreement with the administration on the funding mechanism for the bill. American Farm Bureau Federation economist Pat O'Brien says a deal is crucial.

"The message we're getting is there is a lot of quiet work being done to find a compromise to the budget issue," O'Brien says. "Frankly there can be no conference resolution without that initial problem being solved."

Senate Agriculture spokeswoman Kate Cyrul says agriculture leaders may meet with the President after the House and Senate return on Jan. 15 and Jan. 22 respectively.

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