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Tells Politico he is willing to compromise to get new farm bill
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), ranking member on the Senate Ag Committee, told Politico that he is prepared to compromise on the commodity title and accept target price supports important to Southern producers of cotton, rice and peanuts.
"I'm willing to compromise on whatever they think they can get through and live with in regard to target prices," Roberts told Politico. "Because I have to have the crop insurance or my guys are really going to suffer."
Roberts' shift will now make it easier for the other Ag panels leaders to forge an agreement on safety net language in the farm bill.
"There are a lot of things in the five-year farm bill that are absolutely essential," Roberts said in the interview with Politico. "For me it's crop insurance, because we've been through a two-year drought and now we're headed for three. We would just be in terrible shape if we didn't keep the improvements to crop insurance."
"That's where we are and there shouldn't be any fuss" about the commodity title, he said. "There is all this talk of the South vs. the rest of the country, or to be more accurate, me. I'm willing to compromise."
"It's a typical situation where you get to the eleventh hour and 59th minute you wake up and realize there will be no bill," he said of the state of negotiations now. And even if a deal is reached, he admits a lot will depend of hitching a ride on whatever agreement Obama and Boehner may reach on the larger tax and spending fight.
"You're out there in the great American desert looking for your horse," Roberts said. "How do you get to water?"
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) repeated today that House leaders plan to address "the issue in and around the farm bill," but again did not detail whether that would involve passing a new bill or extending the expired 2008 bill into next year.
In an exchange this afternoon with House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) Cantor made it clear that GOP leaders won't bring the committee-approved bill (HR 6083) to the floor under regular order. There still aren't the votes to pass it, he said. That doesn't rule out dropping a farm bill into whatever agreement congressional leaders reach with the White House to deal with the fiscal cliff.
"I tell the gentleman, the speaker and I both said we will deal with the issue of the farm bill or the issue of - the issue in and around the farm bill - before leaving this year. I would tell the gentleman, it is our sense that the farm bill, in being brought to the floor, in regular order, does not have the votes to pass this house. And we understand the importance of the issues surrounding the farm bill and working with Chairman Lucas. And others on both sides of the Capitol. We look forward to ... reaching some type of resolution on issues surrounding the farm bill prior to leaving this year."