Friday, December 14, 2007

Senate passes its version of the Farm Bill, 79-14

At 3:30 p.m., the U.S. Senate passed the Farm Bill, or its version thereof. The vote was 79-14, very close to the 78-12 vote to limit debate on the measure. The bill, H.R. 2419, now goes to a conference committee with the House.

Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, floor manager of the bill, announced that fellow Democratic Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware, Hillary Clinton of New York, Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Barack Obama of Illinois, who have been busy running for president in Iowa and elsewhere, would have voted for the bill had they been present.

"It is a good bill for rural America and for farmers and for everyone who eats food in this country," Harkin, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said after the bill passed. But the outcome disappointed those who wanted a lower limit on payments to individual farmers, such as Ferd Hoefner of the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition. "It's just sad that a majority no longer counts for much in America's democracy," he told Dan Looker of Successful Farming, referring to the fact that 56 of 100 senators supported a lower limit -- four votes short of the 60 that has become standard for passage of significant legislation in the Senate. For a list of votes on that measure, from the Center for Rural Affairs, which supported it, click here.

Hoefner said the vote fell short partly because some senators "who had supported payment limits for the 2002 farm bill changed their votes this year," Looker reports. "Hoefner was surprised to see a no vote from two other Democrats on the ag committee, Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Senator Ken Salazar of Colorado. Stabenow voted for payment limits in 2002. Salazar wasn't in the Senate then but he campaigned for payment limits." (Read more, via Agriculture Online)

"The Bush administration continues to oppose the farm bills passed by both the House and Senate," reports Peter Shinn of Brownfield Network, while noting that Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner "didn't specifically renew the threat of a Presidential veto." (Read more) Conner said the Senate bill is "fundamentally flawed" and major changes must be made in conference or "We are no closer to a good farm bill than we were before today's passage." He added, "Farmers deserve a farm bill that is free of budget smoke and mirrors and tax increases. The measure passed today has $22 billion in unfunded commitments and budget gimmicks, and includes $15 billion in new taxes -- the first time a farm bill has relied on tax increases since 1933." (Read more)

UPDATE, Dec. 15: For our money, no mainstream journalist reports the Farm Bill better than Dan Morgan, a contract writer for The Washington Post and a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the U.S. For his comprehensive story in the Post, click here.

No comments: