The House of Representatives passed a farm bill in relatively short order after getting down to the nitty gritty of putting specifics in place. It is a bill that required considerable horse trading behind the scenes. Most of the work rounding up the horses and trading the nags for sturdy plow horses was done by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. He made some deals with the "wicked witch of the West," a somewhat common nickname for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

One organization that has traditionally backed Republican views on agricultural issues is the American Farm Bureau Federation, but AFBF has broken with the administration in support of the House farm bill. President Bush has threatened to veto a farm bill that looks like the House version, but AFBF has issued the highest of praise for the bill.

Over in the Senate, nothing seems to be happening. As one observer noted, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, has been "sitting on his hands." He allowed the House to lead the way although many political observers had expected him and the Senate to write a farm bill that would lead the debate, instead of having the House lead the debate.

Although I'm not completely sure of all the aspects of the House version of the farm bill, unless it was axed at the last minute I've been told that the energy title in the House farm bill contains substantial financial support for biodiesel facility construction and very little for ethanol corn starch facility construction. Biomass fuel is an emphasis even though cellulosic ethanol processes are still a ways off.

One interpretation of the energy title funding has been that a 50-million-gallon biodiesel plant would probably cost about $50 million to construct and the federal government would provide refunds in one form or another so that those constructing the plant would receive $30 million of the original investment back from the federal government within two years.

As I noted, the AFBF praised the passage of the House farm bill, and you can see its opinion, point of view by following this link.