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Walz presses for lame-duck farm bill as 'fiscal cliff' looms

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Tim Walz
Rep. Tim Walz in a file photo from Sept. 27, 2012, during a campaign debate with former state Rep. Allen Quist in Byron, Minn.
Alex Kolyer for MPR

As President Barack Obama and congressional leaders begin to negotiate over the series of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes known as the fiscal cliff, some members of Congress say a bill to extend food stamps and farm subsidy programs could help bridge the impasse.

The farm bill expired earlier this year because of House Republican infighting over how deeply to cut food stamp spending.

But the House Agriculture Committee approved a bill that cuts spending by more than $30 billion over the next decade. 

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., said he wants to see the farm bill completed in the lame-duck session of Congress.

"The farm bill was a huge component of my race, one on the policy but two on the idea that why can't you can't get something that simple done?" Walz said. "So I'm all for it. Let's put it in the negotiations on this."

The new farm bill would create a national eligibility standard for food stamps, end direct payments to farmers and expand federally subsidized crop insurance programs.

Meanwhile, some Democrats and union leaders have called for Obama to delay negotiating a final agreement with Republicans until after New Year's to maximize his bargaining position with Republicans. Walz, however, was not on board with that idea, saying it would create uncertainty for taxpayers.

  "But I don't like the idea of crossing over that cliff, letting them expire and then coming back to it again," he said. "I think the rates are right for those making less $250,000. I think they should be given the certainty that those are there. I think we let that top rate go back to the Clinton-era rates."

Republicans say they are open to higher tax revenues, but not higher tax rates. They say tax reform that eliminates deductions and loopholes, coupled with spending cuts to Medicare and Social Security, could strengthen the nation's finances.