Congress has returned to the Capitol for one of the last opportunities for legislative action before the 2008 election cycle heats up. High on the list of priorities for action is the 2007 Farm Bill. The House has already passed its version of the legislation, so attention is now focused on the Senate. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) supports legislation that mirrors the house version in many respects, but faces Senate pressure to include funding for a number of lawmakers’ pet programs.

“The trick will be to get a bill that not only can garner a majority of votes in the committee, but also get 60 votes on the Senate floor-a tall order,” says Kristin Wilcox, a lobbyist for the International Dairy Foods Association.

Neither the House-passed version nor an outline floated by Harkin has been highly detailed in the amount of money available for new programs and where it will come from. Both, however, reveal new emphasis on conservation and nutrition programs. The House bill covers five years, but the Senate could opt for a six- or seven-year bill, to spread some of the increased costs over a longer period of time.