Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer was sworn in Monday afternoon, attended the State of the Union that evening and on Tuesday met with President Bush about the new Farm Bill.
"The President said pretty much what he's been saying all along," Schafer says. "He's not interested in signing a Farm Bill with new taxes in it. The new taxes are there to increase expenditures and I think he's going to stand hard on that issue."
There is a big divide in what Congress and the White House want in the new Farm Bill, but Schafer is optimistic about the prospects.
"It seems to me that everybody is committed to putting together a farm bill that the President can sign this year," Schafer says. "He wants to do so and I think people are working hard to make that happen."
Although Deputy Ag Secretary Chuck Conner will remain the point man on the farm bill, Schafer expects to work closely with him and has already discussed many of the issues with members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees.