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Conrad has alternative commodity title proposal

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D.

Sen. Kent Conrad


As the Senate began voting on amendments to the farm bill today, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., said that he withdrew his target price proposal Monday night because he has another proposal that he prefers and that he intends to bring up with the House when the bill goes to conference.

Speaking to reporters after the Senate party lunches, Conrad said he believes he has a more effective proposal to address problems in the farm bill than the target price proposal he filed along with Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D.

Conrad said he has not filed an amendment with the new provisions because he did not want to reveal the offset he has found to pay for it.

Conrad, an expert on budget matters who used his skill in that area to come up with additional budget authority for the 2008 farm bill, said he believes that if other senators “see the pay-for, they will snatch it.”

He also said that some of his southern colleagues, who have been concerned that the current commodity title does not address the needs of rice and peanut growers, “encouraged me to take the steps I did last night.” He said he believes some southern senators will vote for the bill on final passage even though it does not address those concerns.

Conrad said he believes that he will have “a better shot” at including his alternative proposal in the conference committee, and added that it would be a good compromise position with the commodity program that the House is likely to pass.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told senators that there will be only 10 minutes each for roll call vote today with only one-minute speeches on each side of bills. The Senate is also proceeding with voice votes on some amendments.

“We have a very important bill, we have a long, long ways to go,” Reid said, noting that there are 73 amendments for consideration.

A Senate source said votes are likely to continue until 8 p.m., at which time Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., will be recognized for two hours of debate on a joint resolution to disapprove a rule promulgated by Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson relating to emission standards for certain steam generating units.

But the source warned that the schedule could change at a moment's notice.