March 8, 2008 / 3:05 AM / 12 years ago

Senate tax panel claims power over U.S. farm law

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Senate Finance Committee clearly has control over $10 billion of outlays in the farm bill but it should not be a barrier to strong U.S. farm policy, committee staff workers said on Friday.

Congress is months behind schedule for enacting an omnibus farm law covering crop subsidy, public nutrition, export, land stewardship and biofuel programs. A dispute over committee jurisdiction was the latest hurdle for action.

Leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees said on Thursday they would not surrender authority over farm policy in the new farm law.

“We’re all for shared responsibility to complete this farm bill, and with the clock ticking, it is critical that the Senate Finance Committee come together with the Senate Agriculture Committee to work out the funding for the bill rather than use memos to the media to debate jurisdiction,” said Kate Cyrul, spokeswoman for the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Staff workers for Senate Finance Committee leaders wrote in a memo to reporters, “For the sake of America’s farm families, we in the Senate should acknowledge our shared responsibility to complete this bill and all pull together to get it done.” The memo said negotiations were under way on the spending offsets to pay for the farm bill.

The memo said the Finance Committee “wrote and holds jurisdiction over a number of elements in the Senate-passed farm bill,” including disaster aid and some stewardship work. Jurisdiction held by the Finance Committee “should raise no opposition to completion of strong farm legislation,” it said.

At issue are a $5.1 billion disaster relief fund for agriculture, $3.8 billion in tax credits offered in lieu of cash rental for enrollment of land in the Conservation, Wetlands and grassland reserves, and $1.8 billion in tax credits for landowners who take steps to aid the survival of endangered species.

Reporting by Charles Abbott; editing by Carol Bishopric

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