Saturday, July 28, 2007

Farm Bill News FAQ: "what happened?" "what's with the Dems?" "Is it over?"

In the interest of timeliness, I previously copied a few detailed articles I found that summed up farm bill news. But I've had a few very good questions that I'll try to answer concisely.

"So...what happened exactly? Did our call-ins work?"
Yes and no. The bad news is that the farm subsidy program is largely unchanged. Under this Farm Bill version, large farms will continue to get most of the subsidies while farmers of modest means will continue to struggle. Developing countries will be locked out of selling their products. The WTO may sue us over cotton subsidies. So, that didn't work. But the good news is that to get that passed, the Status Quo reps had to sweeten the pot for the on-the-fencer's by giving more food stamp assistance, nutrition stuff, rural development and conservation programs. So, that part did work. The bummer is that those nice things might not actually get funded. If the subsidy part had been cut more, the money could have come from there.

"I don't understand why so many Democrats voted against the reform amendment and for the Farm Bill. What do you think?"
Dems are having a really hard time keeping together on this one. They're trying to hold their majority and show they can run Congress effectively. A powerful "farm bloc" feels strongly about keeping subsidies high although it flies in the face of what democrats stand for. These reps are backed by large farms that eat up most of the subsidy payments and they don't want to lose support. Rep Zack Space from Ohio is an example. He's a freshman Dem rep, outspoken in saying things like "my constituents are pretty comfortable with things the way they are." Meaning: those with clout to get him replaced with a Republlican are happy with fat subsidies. Poor constituents with no influence are probably not happy at all. I've also heard some Dem reps personally receive those subsidies. A legal conflict of interest?

"Why are Republicans against the Farm Bill?"
In order to pay for the last minute adds, a tax on foreign countries- that can be used as tax havens for US subsidiaries- was put in that has the GOP against the bill. Republicans cite this as a partisan move to add taxes to what was a bipartisan bill.

"Is it over?"
Oh no. Things aren't looking great, but this thing is far from over. The White House threatened to veto if significant subsidy caps aren't in place. Bush can still do this. And the Senate debate is just beginning. The House and Senate must pass their own versions of the bill, then Congress has to reconcile the two for the final bill. Now it's more important than ever to write/call your senators about this. And if your senator is running for president, try extra hard to catch their attention. Like writing a letter to the editor with their name in it. Their printed name gets them looking more than anything!

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