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Ag committees seek to extend farm bill

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson is preparing language to continue certain farm bill programs in legislation Congress is expected to pass before the end of this year.

Peterson said the language is needed to continue authority for many programs in the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 that could be disrupted due to the now almost certain failure of Congress to pass a new farm bill in 2007. The farm bill budget baseline is also at stake, he noted.

“This provision will protect the budget we have for the farm bill that Congress is currently writing,” he said. “We have seen promising movement in the Senate, and I am confident that we can finish work on the farm bill early next year. This interim step should ensure we have the time and resources we need to get the job done.”

A spokesman for the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry said Committee Chair Tom Harkin has agreed to the short-term extension of the current farm bill.

“We want to ensure that nothing falls through the cracks while we work on a new bill in Congress,” said Kate Cyrul. “This need became more evident — and Chairman Peterson and his staff were convinced — when economists realized we could lose billions from our baseline if anything were to lapse.

“This short-term extension provides funding at a low level to keep agencies running, while keeping the pressure on to get a new, five-year farm bill passed as soon as possible.”

Peterson's language will provide short-term continuing authority through March 15, 2008, for most programs in the 2002 farm bill to avoid budgetary changes before the new bill can be completed.

The budget authority for most of the 2002 commodity support programs continues through the 2008 harvest for those crops to the 2008 crop year. Program provisions for the 2008 crop will be included in the new farm bill.

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