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    Congress Reaches Tentative Farm Bill Deal

    The bill's basics were agreed upon, and a one-week extension to the existing legislation has been granted.

    Farm bill negotiators reached agreement on the fundamental aspects of new five-year legislation as the White House agreed to extend existing farm legislation a third time, giving legislators through May 2 to sign off on the final details.

    Key farm bill negotiators have agreed to a core farm bill that exceeds budget baseline by $10 billion. Most important, the conference committee agreed to drop new tax proposals that President Bush had said would be deal breakers. Legislators said the committee is now considering other ways, including user-fees, to fund the $10 billion overrun, according to press reports.

    Specific details and funding will still have to be worked out, and are all subject to ratification by the full conference committee.

    Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the new farm bill will invest heavily in renewable energy and will help bring the promise of cellulosic biofuels to reality by providing grants and loans to move from corn ethanol to other renewable feedstocks.

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