Monday, October 25, 2010

Support of farm programs doing rural Democrats little good; cuts in subsidies may result

With just over a week until the midterm elections, rural Democrats who defended farm subsidies appear to be getting "little credit for their efforts – or for an agricultural economy that largely dodged the recession," Dan Morgan reports for The Fiscal Times. "Agricultural exports are booming, farm profits are at near record levels, and corn prices neared $6 a bushel this week, a two-year high. Farmland values, bucking national real-estate trends, are up nearly 5 percent in the northern Great Plains, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service."

A Republican takeover of Congress could signal cutting of farm subsidies if the party follows through on its promise to scale back government. "House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, the likely new speaker, is a longtime critic of farm programs and didn't vote for the 2008 farm bill," Morgan writes. "Former House GOP Majority Leader Richard Armey, R-Texas, who chairs the national Tea Party organizing group FreedomWorks, has also been a relentless critic of government subsidies for agriculture." Meanwhile, dozens of rural Democrats face tough re-election bids. Even in rural areas dependent on farm subsidies, conservative voters' opposition to a powerful central government appears to be taking precedent, Morgan writes. Early this month, Dawn House of the Salt Lake Tribune reported that Utah farm groups were aligned with new organizations that oppose farm subsidies.

The most prominent example of a rural Democrat struggling for re-election may be "North Dakota Rep. Earl Pomeroy, a veteran member of the Agriculture Committee, who used his seat on the Ways and Means Committee to help engineer crucial funding for the 2008 farm bill," Morgan writes. "A Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in late September found Pomeroy trailing his Republican opponent, businessman Rick Berg, though the margin had narrowed." If the current federal spending debate spills over to the next farm bill Republicans in favor of farm subsidies may need rural Democrat support to fend off deep cuts. (Read more)

With so many key committee seats up for grabs pending the looming election, agriculture legislation in Congress is currently in flux, Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar told Dave Russell of Brownfield. "By that I mean new members, people trying to determine if they want to serve or not, new chairpersons, who are unknowns and who have not really been noted for specific advocacy of anything in particular, this is really a time of flux," said Lugar. (Read more)

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