(DTN)--The House has named 14 senior agriculture committee members to negotiate with the Senate the terms for a farm subsidy law expected to boost grain, cotton and soybean outlays by $5 billion a year..
The appointments cleared the way for a formal opening of discussions, in a conference committee. Staff level meetings began one week ago. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-IA, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said he believes the committee will start meeting soon. Leaders hope to wrap up work by March 22, so any new law would apply to this year's crops.
However, the House and Senate still must settle a disagreement over naming the chair for the negotiations--Texas Republican Larry Combest, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, or Harkin.
"The speaker may supplement the appointments, at a future time," said Idaho Republican Mike Simpson, the presiding officer when the conferees were named.
Any additional negotiators, if named, would represent the interests of committees who believe the wider ranging Senate bill entered their jurisdiction. The Senate bill for the first time included a separate energy title authorizing research and promotion of bio-fuels.
Named as Republican negotiators for the House were Combest, John Boehner of Ohio, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, Richard Pombo of California, Terry Everett of Alabama, Frank Lucas of Oklahoma, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Jerry Moran of Kansas.
House Democratic negotiators include Charles Stenholm of Texas, the party leader on the committee, Gary Condit of California, Collin Peterson of Minnesota, Cal Dooley of California, Eva Clayton of North Carolina and Tim Holden of Pennsylvania.
Senate negotiators were Democrats Harkin, Majority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Kent Conrad of North Dakota, joined by Republicans Richard Lugar of Indiana, Jesse Helms of North Dakota and Thad Cochran of Mississippi.