Saturday, July 14, 2007

Democrats divided over curbing farm subsidies, an idea Bush supports; committee meets Tuesday

House Democratic leaders have said they will not accept a "status quo" Farm Bill, which is up for renewal this year, but they are getting some unexpected disagreement from members of their caucus, including new members from districts where relatively few farmers get payments from commodity programs. (Dept. of Agriculture map)

Freshman Democratic Rep. Zack Space of eastern Ohio has a "district of small and medium-size farms . . . far down the list of those receiving government farm payments," but opposes "major changes in the traditional price and income support programs," Dan Morgan reports in today's Washington Post. Space is one of nine freshman Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee, which will take up the bill on Tuesday. He told the Post, "I'm with the farmers back home who are generally satisfied with the commodity program we have."

Morgan writes, "A coalition of Democratic-leaning environmental organizations, anti-poverty groups and church organizations are pushing to redirect some subsidies to conservation, wetlands preservation, rural development and nutrition. But top Democrats are reluctant to push too hard for changes that could put at risk Democratic freshmen from 'red' states . . . where the farm vote is still a factor in close elections."

Morgan's story is a good summary of the issues swirling around the bill, which finds the Bush administration wanting reforms that Committee Chairman Collin Peterson of Minnesota resists. To read it, click here.

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