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House likely to extend farm bill debate

A House vote on new federal farm policy may not come until next week.

With 103 amendments to be debated after a late start on Wednesday, it appeared it would be difficult to meet today’s 3 p.m. deadline to vote on the nearly $1 trillion bill establishing American farm and nutrition policies.

The House began to examine 53 amendments by Democrats and 50 from Republicans Wednesday afternoon, starting with an argument dealing with a proposed $20 billion cut to food stamp spending over the next 10 years.

Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., led the attempt to restore the food stamp cuts, which was expected to consume most of the debate. Minnesota Democrats Rick Nolan and Keith Ellison rose to support McGovern, but made no comments.

Republican leaders earlier this week decided there would be no votes after 3 p.m. today, allowing congressmen to return home for the weekend.

While Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., and other Agriculture Committee leaders said they have enough votes to pass the bill, the margin appeared to be thin and a delayed vote would increase the chance to lose some support.

In addition to funding food stamps for the poor, the farm bill provides money for other nutrition programs and for most federal agriculture programs. It would cut about as much from farm support programs as it does food stamps as direct payments to farmers largely are replaced by insurance programs.

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