(April 24, 4:12 p.m.) After a challenge from Sen. Larry Craig to give more urgency to farm bill negotiations, the Senate passed another one-week extension to the farm bill April 24.

The new deadline is May 2, but lawmakers conceded they need more time and would come back with another request for an extension in early May.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, originally sought a two-week extension, but settled for a week after Craig, R-Idaho, said he objected to a unanimous consent resolution extending the current farm bill by two weeks.

“We are now six months into working on a new farm bill,” Craig said. “American agriculture is sensing urgency. It is time Congress is sensing urgency.”

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Harkin and ranking member Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., reported movement in settling differences between the House and Senate on funding the bill. Chambliss said an agreement could be in reached on all important issues by April 30.

In an interview with The Packer, Craig — a longtime supporter of specialty crop priorities in the farm bill — said his motivation was not to derail the work of the farm bill conference but to speed it along.

“It has not been my intent to slip us back to a one- or two-year extension. My intent is to ratchet up the pressure and to some extent we have been able to do that,” he said April 23.

Meanwhile, the House passed a short-term extension by a voice vote.

Tom Stenzel, president of the United Fresh Produce Association, Washington, D.C., called the protracted farm bill negotiations “one of the most frustrating experiences we have lived through.”

Still, he said he was pleased Congress continues to work on delivering a new bill that is more responsive to specialty crops.

“Some parts of agriculture would have been happy with status quo for another year,” Stenzel said.