Ever since the Senate Agriculture Committee reported out its farm bill last November, many observers have thought the Daschle-Harkin bill, as it became known, wasn't wrapped as tightly as the House-passed farm bill.

That feeling was further reinforced when the legislation reported by the Senate farm bill managers topped out at more than 1,300 pages, compared to only 390 pages for the farm bill the House passed in late October.

Now comes the word that the Senate bill is more than $6 billion over the $73.2 billion allocation for increased farm bill spending — even when you consider it is a five-year bill versus the 10-year House bill.

Congressional budget analysts have confirmed they made an error in “scoring” the Senate bill, and it will actually cost $6 billion more than the amount they estimated after the Senate passed its bill Feb. 13.

House Agriculture Committee Chairman Larry Combest isn't one to gloat, but he quickly noted that the CBO error “shows the balance and broad base that the House bill has” versus the Senate bill.

CBO now says the Senate bill would push the projected increase in farm spending to $79.4 billion, $6.1 billion more than was allowed in the budget resolution agreed to by Congress last April.

Some farm organizations expressed concern that the discovery of the error could further slow the farm bill process. Those groups have been urging members of the House-Senate conference committee trying to resolve the differences in the House and Senate bill to complete work before Congress begins its Easter recess on March 22.

But some said the development could be a plus for organizations, including the American Farm Bureau Federation, which were already pushing conferees to adopt the provisions of the House bill.

“This just adds to the idea that the Senate farm bill is a poorly conceived, poorly executed piece of legislation that should be shoved to the trash heap,” said one farm organization lobbyist who asked to remain anonymous.


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