Short Extension of Farm Bill Not Out of Question

Schafer backs off statement that there will be no short term extension.

The Administration has been adamant that if Congress can not complete a new farm bill by April 18, they will request a one or two year extension of the 2002 Farm Bill. However; Ag Secretary Ed Schafer says another short-term extension is possible.

"If we are kind of just doing the last paragraph of the work we could look at another short-term extension," Schafer says. "But if we are in the same position we are today, with vast differences between the House and Senate and we're not making any progress, then I would not be able to recommend to the President to sign another short-term extension."

Although a long-term extension has not been looked on favorably by many in Congress, Senator Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, is wavering. He says if April 17 rolls around and they don't have a bill done, the existing Farm Bill should be extended for a year.  However; Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, say he is not interested in "kicking the can downfield with another short-term extension."

"It's time Congress came together and gets a new farm bill," Harkin says. "We have 10 days to finish it; we need to work hard for the next week and get it done."

According to Harkin progress is being made on non-controversial items in the Farm Bill but the two things that are holding it up is detailing the source of the $10 billion that has been agreed upon and the disagreement between the House and Senate on a tax package. He says Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and House Ways and Mean Chairman Charles Rangle, D-N.Y., have met this week and at this point the ball is in their court.

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