I haven’t been 100% up on what was and wasn’t getting included in the Farm Bill as it made its way through Congress over the last year – but I read just now that today Pres. Bush vetoed the Farm Bill! And then the House overrode the veto! The Senate will begin consideration tomorrow, and according to the AP they’re expected to have enough votes to override as well.
NPR’s coverage highlights that the vetoed bill contained prosocial things like food aid for the poor, biofuel development, and incentive to let farmland lay fallow (this is prosocial because of its long term benefits to the land). Unsurprisingly, NPR’s take on things is different from the federal government’s. What IS surprising is that the issues the feds object to are totally easy to agree wtih. Bush’s and the UDSA’s statements cited subsidization of farmers with income over $15 million (?!!?! This figure comes from Bush’s statement – I don’t know where that number comes from); funding and authority for the noncompetitive sale of National Forest land to a ski resort; and a $170 million earmark for the salmon industry.
Here are the beginnings of my thoughts on the Farm Bill as it stands now (or, as the media is reporting that it stands now):
PRO: Cuts tax credit for corn-based ethanol (less sustainable of biobased fuels), and creates tax credit for cellulosic ethanol (more sustainable of biobased fuels).
PRO: Adds $10.4 billion over 10 years to nutrition programs, including food stamps and food pantry donations.
CON: Well, not a con so much as a ‘that’s good, but you need more.’ As in, those are poverty mediation efforts, not poverty prevention/eradication efforts. But they’re necessary for the world we live in now.
PRO: Increases funding for land stewardship. Almost $30 billion, according to NPR. When food prices are so high, farmers have way more incentive to plant, and take advantage of the record prices. It takes $$ to encourage them NOT to plant. Not planting is important in safeguarding the longterm viability and quality of the soil.
CON: National reserve land gets turned into a ski resort!
PRO: The bill would deny all subsidies to people with more than $500,000 a year in off-farm income and bar “direct” payments to those with more than $750,000 a year in farm income.
CON: Is this stringent enough?
CON: This salmon farming business – wtf? Haven’t seen an explanation of that anywhere yet.
And yet… I’m confused! Is Bush trying to distract us with images of richy rich farmers raking it in, when really he wants higher corn-based ethanol rates for his buddies at high corn-producing outfits like Monsanto and Cargill? Or does he want to squeeze the nutrition and emergency food money out? And did the Dem’s in Congress really let these porky earmarks in at the last minute? Or was Bush just feeling bored and ornery and wanted to use his veto power while he still could? All of the above?
With a 1700 page, $300 billion behemoth legislation like this it’s pretty safe to assume that no one has read it cover to cover. Shit gets snuck in at the last minute – who the fuck knows how. The legislators are so disassociated from the actual effects of their work that budget items and restrictions and tax credits get traded back and forth as though they were items of comparable value.
drama Drama DRAMA!