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Harkin says proposed farm bill mirrors one passed last year

Work is set to begin on a new farm bill in both chambers of Congress next week. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who serves on the Senate Agriculture Committee, says they’ll take up the legislation on Tuesday.

Harkin, a Democrat, got his first copy of the committee bill last night and has looked it over. “It’s basically the same kind of bill that we passed in the Senate last year,” Harkin says.

“We passed it with a strong bipartisan vote, so it’s basically the same bill that we had last fall.” Farm and food bills have typically been renewed by Congress every five years and the last one passed in 2008.

“I’m very happy about the conservation provisions in it, the conservation compliance provisions, the fresh fruit and vegetable program that we have in there, so I think our bill looks pretty good,” Harkin says. “I hope we can get it through.”

The full Senate passed its version of the farm bill last year and another version passed the House Ag Committee, but it never went before the full House. Congress chose to extend the current farm bill into September of this year. Harkin is not highly optimistic about a resolution, given that Republican Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin is still chair of the House Budget Committee.

“The Ryan budget in the House that’s going to be controlling over (their version of the farm bill),” Harkin says, chuckling, “It would just be abysmal for agriculture. I’ll have more to say about that later.”

One sticking point last year was the House version of the farm bill cut the food stamp program by billions more dollars than the Senate version.