Farm Bill Update: Second Day of Meetings Brings More Money For Specialty Crops, but Reform?
This is the second day of discussion on the farm bill in the House Agriculture Committee. (Remember, the farm bill is not just for farmers.) The negotiations are fluid, but the rhetoric on all sides is heating up. Here’s a rundown:
Rep. Collin Peterson, chair of House Ag committee
Photo: Minnesota Public Radio/Dan Gunderson
House Ag Committee chair Collin Peterson, a Minnesota Democrat, has proposed ending subsidies for farmers who have $1 million or more in adjusted gross income. “This bill is far from the status quo," Peterson said.
Dow Jones reports that “support is growing" for Peterson’s compromise, even though the Bush Administration feels there are not enough changes to existing programs — and those in some farm sectors (cotton, rice and wheat) believe the cuts are too severe. Peterson's plan would also allow farmers to choose between programs that would support commodity prices or total farm income.
Meanwhile, Dow Jones reports, “Some Republican members of the committee threatened not to show up for the first day of debate Tuesday without evidence that the funding was available for programs to support sectors such as fruits, vegetables and ethanol, but a last-minute meeting with the Democrats convinced them to attend." (Funding for so-called specialty crops had been increased dramatically, up to $1.6 billion over five years.)
What’s the Reaction?
The Center for Rural Affairs posted a hot critique of Peterson’s proposal under the headline, “This is Not Reform." Dan Owens writes:
“It is a sham. It is not real reform. It will not end the unlimited commodity payments that mega-farms use today to drive their smaller neighbors out of business. Maybe most importantly, it does not stand up and say, once and for all, that the farm bill exists to help small and mid-sized family farms and rural communities”¦. We’ll ignore the fact that you would have to be one rich damn farmer to get anywhere close to $900,000, let alone reach that limit Let me put it this way- should we have a $900,000 (Adjusted Gross Income) limit on food stamps?"
(Ken Cook over at Mulch agrees with CFRA: “This is not what progressives would consider reform.")
There was a multidenominational press conference July 17 about the farm bill. Episcopal Bishop John Bryson Chane of the Washington, D.C., diocese asked that "the House leadership must now begin to address this bill from a moral perspective and center that transcends the typical as-you-go-politics that have sustained U.S. agricultural policy."
Bishop Theodore Schneider of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's Metro Washington, D.C., synod said, "Unfortunately, the Agriculture Committee's draft farm bill leaves in place a farm support structure that is inherently unjust, rewarding the largest farmers and enabling their growth, while failing to provide meaningful help for the farmers who need it most: small and mid-sized farmers who are struggling to keep their operations afloat, beginning farmers, and socially disadvantaged farmers."
Earlier reports predicted Petterson would put off any votes today as Republicans asked for time to look at the numbers. But hearings continued Wednesday evening and a vote of the full committee could be held this evening.
Good sources on the details include