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Farm bill effort falters in Senate

The third time was not a charm as the Senate once again failed to shut off debate on the Senate Agriculture Committee-passed farm bill. As on two other occasions in recent days, Senate Democrats fell short of the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture on the bill.

At press time, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle said he was pulling the bill from the floor, but that he reserved the right to bring it back up if senators requested it.

“We have to move on,” said Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, following the vote on the cloture motion, which failed 54-43, virtually the same margin of defeat in the two earlier votes.

Some farm organizations appeared to throw in the towel following the vote, but the National Cotton Council said it would continue pushing to get a Senate farm bill passed before Congress adjourned for the year.

“Members of the National Cotton Council appreciate the efforts of members and leaders of the Senate to fashion new farm legislation that holds promise for restoring economic viability to American agriculture,” NCC Chairman James E. Echols said in a letter to Daschle and Minority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi.

“However, we are now extremely discouraged that deliberations have stalled. Unless new farm law is enacted promptly, many farmers simply will not be able to secure production financing for the new season.”

Members of the Cotton Council and other farm organizations had been urging the Senate to complete its work on a farm bill and send it to a House-Senate conference committee before recessing for the holidays. Following adjournment, the Senate will not return to session until Jan. 23.

“There has not been a time since the Great Depression when American agriculture was under greater economic stress and in greater need for new farm policy that provides a better income safety net while facilitating international competitiveness,” said Echols' letter.

“Our membership, from producer to textile manufacturer, joins unanimously in urging the Senate to resume deliberations as quickly as possible to finalize legislation that is absolutely essential to the restoration of economic viability for American agriculture.”

The National Farmers Union, meanwhile, said its hope had been dashed for a new farm bill this year.

“Unfortunately, a minority of senators turned a deaf ear to the pleas from the countryside and voted against enacting a farm bill this year said NFU President Leland Swenson.”

For continuing updates on the farm bill debate, go to Delta Farm Press on the Internet:

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