The final farm bill conference language was published late Tuesday morning on the House Agriculture Committee website after the goal of a public release was missed Monday when there were budget scoring problems. In a key step toward completion of House action, the House Rules Committee will meet Tuesday night to consider the time and the rules for the House floor debate. The bill is online at: www.agriculture.house.gov and www.agriculture.senate.gov.
The Congressional Budget Office scoring conducted over the weekend came in above the spending level allowed for the first five years of the bill even though the 10-year score was reported to comply. Lawmakers had to revisit some of the spending and tweak the timing on some payments to bring the five-year spending in line, a Congressional source said.
President Bush continues to oppose the final conference bill and will veto it, Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said. A statement on the White House website charges the conference report spending increase (over the 2007 budget baseline) is "nearly $20 billion, not the $10 billion that Congress is claiming." Even before the new problems, the White House claimed $4.5 billion came from "a budget gimmick to shift the timing of payments."
House is expected to take the bill to a floor vote Wednesday, followed by Senate floor action on Thursday. It remains unclear if the new budget problems will influence House Republicans or senators to vote to override the President's veto after the initial vote.
Meanwhile, the current extension of the 2002 farm bill expires at Friday, May 16. Interestingly, House sources report that the farm commodity programs have not been included in any of the 2002 extensions.