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Congress Returns, Uncertainty Remains

Although discussions have been ongoing during recess, it remains unclear where Congressional negotiations are.

Congress returns to Capitol Hill Monday after a two week recess for Thanksgiving. Leaders in both the House and Senate spent time over the break discussing possible agreements to move legislation on several issues forward, but it is unknown how successful they were.

In addition to the 2007 Farm Bill, on which no action was taken before the recess, members have been negotiating a compromise on an energy package. Each chamber passed energy legislation earlier this year, but reconciling the differences has been stalled.

With the short window of time and the mountain of legislation Congress has to wade through, it's anyone's guess what will and won't be finished over the next three weeks. Appropriation bills remain undone, and legislation such as the alternative minimum tax, the State Children's Health Insurance Program and the Foreign Intelligence Survey Act all need action. The Senate is also expected to consider the Peru Free Trade Agreement which was passed last month by the House.

Several House members have introduced legislation creating a one year extension of the 2002 Farm Bill. Last week, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., said he would not support an extension if the Senate can't finalize a bill. Several agricultural groups have voiced opposition for an extension, including National Association of Wheat Growers President John Thaemert.

"We need a new farm bill this year," Thaemert says. "Extending current law would almost certainly mean further reduced funding, which would make it even harder to write a good, compromise bill next year or in the future."

TAGS: USDA
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