Magazine article American Banker

Farm Bill's Progress Not Fast Enough for Lenders

Magazine article American Banker

Farm Bill's Progress Not Fast Enough for Lenders

Article excerpt

The House and Senate took a big step toward reconciling their vastly different versions of the farm bill this week, but farmers and their lenders are still nervous.

Late Tuesday the conference committee released a statement saying that the two sides had set up a framework for using the $73.5 billion, 10-year farm bill budget to pay for policy initiatives.

The agriculture-news Web site AgWeb.com reported late Tuesday that the committee's tentative funding framework included $46 billion for commodities, $17.1 billion for conservation, $2.6 billion for dairy, sugar, and peanuts. A congressional source cautioned that these numbers were simply guidelines for legislative staff working on the bill.

With that in place, the staff for each side will begin working to resolve the policy differences that make the bills so different. Their goal is to have a final bill ready for approval by mid-April -- six months after the House passed its version of the bill.

When the Senate passed its version, in February, it was clear that reconciling the two would not be easy. Just looking at them side by side highlights their differences. The conference committee refers to copies of the bill that are double-spaced and have every line of text numbered so that conferees can compare them easily. The House bill has 381 pages and the Senate bill 1,335.

The House bill, called the Farm Security Act of 2001, focuses primarily on commodity programs to help producers who are having trouble supporting themselves solely from farming.

The Senate bill, the Agriculture, Conservation, and Rural Enhancement Act of 2002, also provides for commodities programs but puts more emphasis on conservation. It also includes items such as special bankruptcy protection for farmers and a ban on meat-packing companies' owning livestock.

Despite the move forward, the industry is getting anxious. …

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