Negotiators for the House/Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee have addressed many White House proposals for the bill as it moves closer to the final series of votes.
USDA Secretary Ed Schafer met negotiators yesterday to spell out the Administration's goals.
"We have moved considerably on reform," says Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who is in charge of the farm bill talks. A meeting is set for today to iron out the final details.
During a day-long meeting yesterday, senior negotiators acted on crop-subsidy rules, land-stewardship programs, language to prevent abuse of price supports and whether fruit and vegetables will continue to be barred on land eligible for crop subsidies. Harkin and other leaders told Reuters that they would not discuss details until they briefed other negotiators.
"There is more reform in here than there was this morning," says Virginia Rep. Bob Goodlatte, the Republican leader on the House Agriculture Committee. He notes that some issues remained but wouldn't detail them.
For months, the administration has urged an income cutoff point for access to crop subsidies -- $500,000 in adjusted gross income if Congress adopts broad-scale reform or as low as $200,000 AGI if there was little reform. Farm-bill negotiators did not want any limit on income from farming although they proposed a cap of $500,000 or $750,000 for off-farm income.
"We did move toward the White House -- big time," says Harkin.