Saturday, December 15, 2007

Farm Bill passed in Senate 12/14

From Bread for the World:
Yesterday, the Senate passed its version of the farm bill by a vote of 79-14. Although the bill makes improvements in the nutrition programs, the funding for those measures is temporary. Trade-distorting commodity payments were protected, despite the fact that two reform amendments received majority votes.

Statement by Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World:

"I am outraged that two amendments that would have cut payments to the wealthiest farmers in this country passed with majority votes, but were shut down by backroom shenanigans by Senate leadership. Senators who voted against these amendments did not just vote to protect wealthy special interests, they voted against helping working families who struggle to put food on the table.

Voters-and especially many Christians-are ahead of the politicians on this issue. The abuses in the farm bill have been exposed, and this issue will not just be swept under the rug.

It's the most wonderful time of the year for the farm lobby. When is Christmas going to come for hungry and poor people?

My prayer is that the president, Republican and Democratic congressional leadership can come together to improve this bill in conference. At the very least, they must find a way to make the funding improvements in the nutrition programs secure and permanent. But, they can solve that problem and many others by cutting funding to direct payments."

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How would the candidates have voted on Lugar-Lautenberg?

For the first time since I don't know when, I saw a debate moderator ask the exact question on my mind. Today, in Iowa, the Des Moine Register hosted a Democratic presidential debate where the Farm Bill was directly addressed.

Carolyn Washburn, editor of the Register and the moderator, noted that every senator on the panel had missed the vote on the FRESH ammendment. She asked them how they would have voted if they had been present and why. The answers were a little surprising to me. I went from being irritated that my senator missed the vote to being glad Obama was shaking hands in Iowa. Not that it mattered in the end.

Here are the answers with some paraphrased notes on the rhetorical nays:
Dodd- yes
Obama- no...said there were things (unspecified?) in the ammendment he didn't like, but he does support subsidy caps and did vote yes on Dorgan-Grassely today
Clinton-no...said she follows Tom Harkins lead (smart statement in Iowa!). Also, noted her yes vote for Dorgan-Grassley today

The other candidates were not asked their opinion on farm policy. At least it got the Farm Bill issue a bit more press in a national forum.

Voting record for Dorgan-Grassely Amendment to the Farm Bill

Here's the nitty gritty on how the senators each voted on the Dorgan-Grassley amendment.

Obama, Clinton, Biden, and Dodd were all present and voted for it. McCain did not vote.

As an interesting and disappointing note, there were four senators that had voted for this amendment both in 2002 and in 2005 that voted "nay" today. Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), and George Voinovich (R-OH) all switched their votes this year. If these four senators had stayed consistent with their voting record, it would have passed. Boo.

Dorgan-Grassely fails in Senate

From the Center for Rural Affairs:
"The Dorgan-Grassley amendment lost and will not be part of the 2007 Farm Bill. 56 yes, 43 no. 60 votes were needed to win. We'll post the individual votes in an hour or two when they are put on the Senate website."

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

A letter to Obama

I emailed this to Obama's office and the Chicago Trib today...
Dear Mr. Obama,

I don’'t know how else to get your attention. I’'ve written you letters about the U.S. Farm Bill re-authorization. I'’ve left you messages at your office urging you to protect poor and hungry people against the aims of the agribusiness rich to get richer. (Thank you for your eloquent responses agreeing with my views.) I’'ve sent you money to help you win the office without the help of Big Lobby Money. And yet, when the strongest measure for farm bill reform appeared for a senate vote on December were gone. In Iowa, I believe. You talk about grassroots movements and improving lives, but when it comes to voting on what could be the U.S.’'s biggest poverty fighting tool, your record listed "“not voting.”" Thank goodness Mr. Durbin didn’'t have any pressing engagements, so he could vote "“yes.”"

There are still amendments left this week to put limits on commodity payments and strengthen nutrition, food stamps and school lunch programs. Mr. Obama, I think I want you to be my president, but right now I really need you to be my senator.

(By the way, I know Ms. Clinton didn'’t vote either, but she’'s not my senator.)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

FRESH Amendment failed 37-58 in Senate

The first amendment to be voted on was the FRESH amendment (aka Luger-Lautenberg). It failed 37-58. This is the one that would have completely overhauled farm subsidies. Similar to the Ron Kind amendment in the House, which was a famous non-success. This one was not actually expected to pass as it might have been the most radical one. Bread for the World folks say they are happy that they got as high as 37 votes. So, that would be the good news in this. I am irritated to report that Biden, Clinton, Obama, Dodd and McCain were not voting. Could it be they were all stuck on the same plane back from Iowa? Sadly, I doubt it.

To see how everyone voted:

There is still more action packed Farm Bill excitement to come, so don't get totally discouraged yet.

Thank you for calling your senators!

Ok, now we can stop calling. Now is time to cross fingers, pray, sing, dance, or do whatever you believe that might affect the outcome of the Farm Bill now that they are heading into debate and voting. Updates here later!

Or go to for quicker updates and you will know pretty much what I know. Unless you are watching it on CSPAN-2 for yourself.

You can still call in until 2:30PM on the Farm Bill!

You can STILL CALL TODAY up until 2:30 pm EST, when we are hearing that they will actually start voting on amendments and the farm bill. Here's the call-in information again.

Call 1-800-826-3688 (ask for each of your senators' offices) and urge them to support:
• The FRESH Amendment;
• The Dorgan-Grassley Amendment
• The Brown-Sununu Amendment; and
• Any other amendments that help make our commodity payments fairer for all farmers and provide additional funding for the Food Stamp Program.

If you want to see a video on how to call-in to your senators, here is a demonstation:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Jimmy Carter supports farm bill reform in Wash Post

When a former president bothers to write an editorial, perhaps we should read it...and respond with a letter to the editor, too!

From the Washington Post..

"Congress has a moral obligation to protect American agriculture with legislation that will serve our national interests, that will feed hungry people and that does not suppress the ability of the poor to work their way out of poverty."

Amen, Mr. President.

BREAKING NEWS: Farm Bill vote TOMORROW!!!! Call in!

BREAKING NEWS: the Senate will be debating and voting on the Farm Bill TOMORROW DEC 11th!!!!

I've seen 2 very optimistic updates on the farm bill in the last 24 hrs. I'm not going to be disappointed in the length of the process if it turns out that we get some real reform in the end! The worst thing that could've happened is for the bill to be rushed through with a completely status quo result and no real debate. So, that does not appear to be happening!

The stalling was happening in the part of the process where the Senate decides on what amendments are even going to be considered. A deal has been achieved where both Reps and Dems will offer 20 amendments to the farm bill. Which should, as I understand it, be able to encompass the biggies that Bread for the World has been pushing for (Grassely-Dorgan, Lugar-Lautenberg, etc).

So call those senators if you haven't already:

1-800-826-3688 ask them to support:
• The FRESH Amendment;
• The Dorgan-Grassley Amendment
• The Brown-Sununu Amendment; and
• Any other amendments that help make our commodity payments fairer for all farmers and provide additional funding for the Food Stamp Program.

If you want to see a video on how to talk to your senators, here is a demonstation:

It's actually a beautiful little piece that I can't believe we haven't seen before! good luck!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

ONE Vote '08

Hey, look at this neato application on the site. It lets you compare the candidates' different responses to questions of global poverty. It gives little charts, but also video with them talking about their opinions. Sweet.

And there's a petition to sign, too, if you are so inclined!