Key House and Senate farm bill negotiators reached agreement today on the main elements of the farm bill, with details to be presented to all conferees Monday. Senate Budget Chairman Kent Conrad said the five-year bill would raise the target prices and loan rates for northern crops beginning in 2010, raise the sugar loan rate three-quarters of a cent and include a sugar-to-ethanol program. It also provides an additional $4 billion for conservation programs, including $1.1 billion for the Conservation Security Program, a priority of Senate Agriculture Chairman Tom Harkin, and $10.361 billion for domestic and international food aid programs. For offsets, negotiators cut the $5.2 billion per year direct payments program by 2 percent per year for four years, but they will preserve the full payments in the fifth year to preserve the baseline for future years. The bill also includes the new disaster program that Conrad and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus have championed, but cut $250 million from the planned $4 billion funding.
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