- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is insisting that any House-Senate compromise on the farm bill include dairy price supports something he wants to deliver to Sen. James M. Jeffords, who cited his desire for such a program as a reason he left the Republican Party.
Republican Senate aides said Mr. Daschle scuttled a potential agreement this week because the dairy-support program wasn't strong enough and Mr. Daschle said getting an acceptable program is a must-have.
"This is among the most important priorities for us," Mr. Daschle said. "We're not going to quit until we're satisfied."
House and Senate negotiators are trying to work out a middle ground between the bills that passed each chamber. Negotiators said dairy subsidies is just one in a long list of issues, and that nothing is certain until there is agreement on everything in the bill.
"Dairy is one part of a very big bill," said Rep. Larry Combest, Texas Republican and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.
The farm bill would extend government supports for a host of farm products and maintain food stamp and nutrition programs. Among the other sticking points in the conference are restoring food-stamp benefits for lawful immigrants and price supports for corn.
Mr. Jeffords left the Republican Party last spring and threw his support to the Democrats, giving them the majority and making Mr. Daschle the new majority leader.
The Vermont independent said his switch was partly based on the White House's decision to oppose the Northeast Dairy Compact, which guaranteed a minimum milk price in Northeastern states, allowing dairy farmers there to remain in business.
The compact expired in September, and Mr. Daschle said he wanted to help Mr. Jeffords and Vermont's other senator, Democrat Patrick J. Leahy, obtain a new agreement, even though Mr. Daschle himself opposed such compacts.
As a compromise, the Senate passed a bill expanding the regional compact into a nationwide dairy program that would offer subsidies for milk prices for farms that met a threshold for production, but which still gave Northeastern states the sweetest deal. The House bill had no dairy supports.
In the joint House-Senate conference, senators proposed a $2.3 billion program for subsidies that treated the entire country uniformly an effort to appease Western and Southern dairy farmers. House members countered with a $1.2 billion proposal that would put a much stricter threshold on which farms qualify, but the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement.
The dairy squabble has some senators believing the conference will wind up deadlocked and produce no bill at all. Yesterday, Sen. Pat Roberts, Kansas Republican, said the delay has already been too long to help farmers this year.
"The clock, if not expired, is certainly ticking. It is time for us to admit what most farmers and ranchers already know it's too late to pass a bill that can apply to this year's crop," he said, promising to introduce a stopgap one-year measure as soon as possible.
There was some action on the president's request to restore food-stamp benefits to green-card holders who have lived in the United States for five years.
Rep. Tom Tancredo, Colorado Republican, withdrew his motion that would have told House negotiators to insist on stricter eligibility requirements than the Bush administration wants. Mr. Tancredo said he pulled the motion after a call from House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, Illinois Republican, who according to a spokesman didn't want the conference's negotiations upset by the motion.


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