Monday, December 10, 2007

Farm Bill debate finally begins in the Senate

The U.S. Senate is finally debating the Farm Bill, touching off a furious, last-minute siege of lobbying and editorializing on the five-year plan for agriculture, nutrition, Rural Development and other rural programs. Officially titled the Food and Energy Security Act of 2007, it also includes sections on biofuels. Debate began after an agreement that the Senate would consider 20 amendments from each party. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said this afternoon that only 14 percent of the $288 billion projected cost of the bill is for production agriculture. He said 9 percent for conservation (most of which is payments to landowners) and 67 percent for food programs.

"With voting set to start Tuesday, some pending amendments already appear to be long-shot statements of principle," reports Michael Doyle of the McClatchy Co. Washington Bureau. "An early and important test of Senate reform sentiment will come on an amendment putting a $250,000 limit on the amount of federal payments a couple can receive. The current limit is $360,000." (Read more) "The Bush administration has threatened to veto the Farm Bill unless Congress delivers more cuts to the number of wealthy farmers included in the programs," notes Elliott Blackburn of The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal. (Read more)

The Washington Post urged senators to consider its "Harvesting Cash" series about farm subsidies and Rural Development programs. "This painstaking journalism by Dan Morgan, Gilbert M. Gaul and Sarah Cohen identified $15 billion in government waste that had escaped the notice of executive branch investigators, the Government Accountability Office and congressional committees," a Post editorial said. (Read more) "What should happen in rural development is not part of the editorial," notes the Daily Yonder.

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