Live Blogging the Senate Negotiations

We're not really live-blogging anything, but it sure feels like it. There is a lot of new information flying around about the battle for payment limits reform in the Senate, so here is a bit of a news round-up of what we know in addition to the earlier post.

From the CQ Midday Update:

Senate Committee Leaders Close Ranks on New Farm Bill

Members of the Senate Agriculture Committee have reached agreement on how to spend the limited funding they have for the 2007 farm bill, Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Wednesday.

The announcement came after months of vote counting and negotiation between Harkin and Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who was in the process of writing an alternative farm bill intended to preserve crop subsidies. Conrad had the backing of Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, the ranking Republican on the committee, whose constituents rely heavily on these subsidies.

Initially, Harkin had said he would make deep cuts to subsidies and reinvest that cash in conservation programs. But he backed off when he saw few members of his committee would support that plan.

Again, we see the strong hints that real payment limits has been severely compromised in the process. Read the whole thing here.

Now for two items straight from the main players in this debate. First there is Harkin's statement from this morning.

I'm pleased to announce that I've been able to reach a basic agreement with key members of the Senate Agriculture Committee on the elements of the new farm bill, which we hope to mark up in this month.

Harkin goes on to offer a few sketchy details on conservation, nutrition, and a few other programs. He is mum on payment limits.

We get the most details on the impending payment limits disaster from Senator Conrad:

Commodities

Reform existing program to eliminate abuse and make program fairer by:
Eliminating the three-entity rule and requiring direct attribution

There you have it folks. The "payment limits" deal headed for the Senate Agriculture Committee looks an awful lot like the House provision that has been widely denounced -- even by Representatives who voted for it.

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