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Senate Takes Up Farm Bill Again

US - The Senate began debating amendments to its version of a farm bill Friday, after reaching a bipartisan agreement to limit the number of amendments to 20 for the Democrats and 20 for the Republicans.

The bill stalled just before the Thanksgiving recess when nearly 300 amendments from both parties threatened to bog down debate.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) said that he expects more amendments to be offered starting next Monday.

Voting on amendments likely won't start until Tuesday and debate could last through most of next week, Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition told Agriculture Online. He expects the Dorgan-Grassley amendment to limit farm program payments to $250,000 to be one of the first up. The amendment wasn't debated Friday because one of its sponsors, Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, was out of town, Hoefner said.

Another amendment offered by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) would lower the income test for getting farm program payments from $2.5 million for nonfarmers to $750,000 for full time farmers and $250,000 for part-time farmers. Klobuchar said Friday that amount is the profit after expenses.

"We need to have this kind of reform because we need the support of the entire country if we want to pass this farm bill," she said.

Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) the ranking Republican on the Senate Ag Commiittee, said that he opposes the Klobuchar amendment. Large farmers often use such profits to pay down loans, he said, and such a limit would make financial planning for farmers and bankers difficult.

Hoefner said that his group is neutral on the Klobuchar amendment. It has supported other income tests but has mixed feeling about this one, he said. The likely result of any income test for getting farm program payments is that nonfarm landlords who get payments under crop share leases would just shift to cash rent leases.