To bring the bill within the White House's limit of a $6 billion increase from the 2002 version, the committee had to cut -- including funds for nutrition and conservation programs as well as from some commodity subsidies (especially soybeans), Brasher reports. The current version of the Farm Bill expires March 15, and that deadline means legislators have to reach some compromises soon, said the committee’s chairman, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.). The House and Senate passed different versions of the bill last year, each of which Bush threatened to veto. “We’ve been able to disappoint everybody in this process," he said. "What we’re hoping is that we’ve disappointed them all equally,” he said. (Read more)
The proposal did not stir much support in the Senate, reports Peter Shinn of Brownfield Network. "Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson [said] Peterson should have struck a deal with the Senate before trying to make one with the White House, especially since the Senate farm bill passed by a veto-proof margin in December." (Read more) But in a later report, Brownfield's Bob Meyer writes that Sen. Tom Harkin supports the plan and wants more money for it. "The Iowa Democrat says there are just too many important items that must be funded in the bill like farm income protection, conservation, food assistance, rural economic development and an energy title," Meyer writes. (Read more)
Brownfield's Dave Russell also explains the "not pretty" scenario of the Farm Bill reverting back to a 60-year-old law if the deadline is not met. (Read more, including an interview with Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Natural Resources and the Environment Mark Rey)
The Farm Bill is an enormous piece of legislation that has withstood several attempts at major reform. In an essay for the Daily Yonder, Richard Oswald identifies the "headaches" the bill gives farmers and consumers and explains them: "Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate all the hard work Congress does on these things. It’s not easy building a coalition of cooperation among all the special interests. Livestock growers want abundant grain supplies. Grain growers want abundant prices. Grain dealers want abundant markets. And taxpayers want abundant food at low cost. Hence we have a farm bill and abundant headaches."
His main complaint is commodity payments, which he says favor larger farms at the expense of small ones. "Government-subsidized competition makes it hard for small farmers to compete for land they need to earn a living," he writes. Oswald also points out that a study from the Center for Rural Affairs found "payment limit reforms touted by Congress actually increase payments for many large farms." (Read more)