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Republicans, Democrats Agree on Ethanol

Both parties see value of promoting ethanol use.

In discussions on the next farm bill, Democrats and Republicans don't always agree. That's why the issue both sides support - promoting ethanol production and demand - is likely to carry the passage of the 2007 farm bill.

After meeting with Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, incoming Senate Agriculture Committee Chair Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says "energy actually may be the engine that pulls this farm bill, or pushes it," according to the AP.

Not all politicians agree with Johanns' assertion that specialty crops, such as fruits and vegetables, should receive subsidies just like current commodity crops - corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, and cotton.

Not all Republicans agree with Harkin and incoming House Agriculture Committee Chair Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., who want to make conservation programs a focus of the next farm bill, with some lawmakers suggesting that too many acres locked in conservation programs limits farmers' potential yields. With rising demands for corn due to ethanol production, there is some question as to whether farm acres would need to be taken out conservation programs. Johanns hasn't committed to an answer to this question yet.

Yet despite their disagreements on other issues, Democrats and Republicans have similar interests when it comes to ethanol policy in the next farm bill. While politicians' stances on agricultural issues are often based more on home districts than party lines - Johanns says farm bill issues are often "commodity-driven" - ethanol and other renewable fuels also bring both sides of the aisle together because of a common belief that the U.S. needs to work towards energy independence, Harkins says.

"There is a groundswell of support in this country that we need energy independence, that we have to produce more biofuels," Harkin says.

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