| WASHINGTON, March 11
WASHINGTON, March 11 Congress and the Bush
administration are $4 billion apart on funding for the new U.S.
farm law and where to spend the $10 billion increase, such as a
standby disaster program, said the Senate Budget Committee
chairman on Tuesday.
Congress was not expected to complete work on the farm law
until mid-April, six months behind schedule. Negotiators hope
to agree on a farm bill "framework" covering funding,
allocation of money and overall policy by week's end.
There were signs the administration may accept creation of
an ever-ready disaster program costing $4 billion to $5
billion. It is a priority of senators from the northern Plains,
who feel the government is slow to act when crops fail.
Farm bills, written every few years, are omnibus
legislation covering crop subsidy, public nutrition, land
stewardship, export, rural development and biofuel programs.
Nutrition will get two-thirds of the money in the new law.
"There is still a gap between what we need and what we've
agreed to," said Senate Budget Committee chairman Kent Conrad,
North Dakota Democrat, during a session with soybean growers.
He placed the gap at around $4 billion both on how to pay
for the bill and for how much larger are proposals for outlays
compared to the target of an increase of $10 billion over 10
"We've gotten a lot of resistance on a permanent disaster
program," said Conrad, but the administration took part in
discussions this week of how to craft a program.
"They seem to be working with us on it," said House
Agriculture Committee chairman Collin Peterson, Minnesota
Democrat, separately to reporters.
The House and Senate passed bills last year that would
spend far more than the $10 billion increase now on the table.
As a result, lawmakers must trim back on outlays.
"Everybody has to give a little ground," said Conrad.
Conrad said there were nonstop discussions on ways to pay
for the farm bill. The White House says it will not accept tax
increases. Conrad said customs and users fees could be a large
part of the "payfors."
Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley told reporters he would press
for more stringent subsidy rules in the farm bill. The Senate
was debating an annual budget resolution that included
Grassley's "hard" cap of $250,000 a year per farmer in
"It's to keep the issue alive," said Grassley, a
Republican. He said the farm bills passed by the House and
Senate last year are riddled with loopholes while claiming to
tighten subsidy rules.
(Editing by Christian Wiessner)