Farm bill remains in limbo following veto threat

by Keith Nunes
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WASHINGTON — The good news is the Senate-House conference committee on the new farm bill announced on May 9 it had reached an agreement. The bad news is the bill remains in limbo as President George W. Bush has signaled his intention of vetoing the current version.

"This is a strong, bipartisan farm bill that benefits every American from Cumming, Iowa, population 162 to New York City, population 8 million," said Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. "The bill provides a strong safety net, so it’s good for our farmers and producers. Consumers will like it because it will increase farmers’ markets and ensure a safe, dependable supply of high quality food."

With the conference agreement in hand, the next steps for the bill require the creation of a formal conference report that will be passed by the Senate and House before being sent to the White House for the president’s signature.

But the same day the conference committee announced its agreement, Secretary of Agriculture Ed Schafer signaled the Bush administration’s disapproval of the legislation.

"Today, the United States House and Senate announced the completion of a farm bill that unfortunately fails to include much needed reform and increases spending by nearly $20 billion," Mr. Schafer said. "At a time of record farm income, Congress decided to further increase farm subsidy rates, qualify more people for taxpayer support, and move programs toward more government control. We should not remove farm commodities from market forces and make them dependent upon government support programs.

"We are also concerned about a lengthy list of extraneous provisions that are not related to farm programs and have no place in this legislation. For a year and a half, the administration has been consistently clear that Congress needs to move forward with a good farm bill that the president can sign. They have failed to do so. This legislation lacks meaningful farm program reform and expands the size and scope of government. I have visited face to face with our president and he was direct and plain. The president will veto this bill."

In response to the president’s veto threat, Mr. Harkin was candid when he said "Like any compromise bill resulting from hard bargaining among regional and other interests, this farm bill is far from perfect. But no piece of legislation is. It includes significant reforms as well as major advances. It deserves the president’s signature."

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