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Johanns says Senate Ag can reach farm bill agreement

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb.
Sen. Mike Johanns
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., said today he is optimistic that the Senate Agriculture Committee can reach agreement on a farm bill proposal and send it to the Senate floor.

"There is probably a reasonable chance that areas of agreement and disagreement can be hashed out in the Senate Agriculture Committee" and that a coalition in favor of the bill might build from there, Johanns told state agriculture commissioners from around the country who are gathered in Washington for the National Association of State Deparments of Agriculture meeting.

Johanns, a former Agriculture secretary, noted that the Senate Agriculture Committee has many experienced members, some of whom have chaired it. Johanns also noted that it is unusual for the farm bill to start in the Senate.

He said said the "unwritten story" is that the budget will dominate the bill. The current farm bill is popular, he said, which makes the idea of an extension also popular. But Johanns said he does not see a lot of enthusiasm for an extension.

"The bottom line is we need to do something this year," he said.

Rep. Reid Ribble, R-Wis., told the group that the House will not take any action on the farm bill until it writes a budget and that the budget will not be finished until the end of March. The House budget plus other budgetary concerns "will guide the bill," Ribble said.