Monday, September 03, 2007

The Senate Gets Ready for Farm Bill Debate

The Labor Day recess is coming to an end and the Senate is getting ready to begin debating the farm bill. The House has passed their own version of the farm bill and the Senate will start their work in the next few days. Here is a quick summary of what some in the Senate are thinking:

Senator Norm Coleman R-Minnesota
"It's pretty hard to argue against the House-passed farm bill," Republican Sen. Norm Coleman (Minn.) said via conference call last week at the sugar industry's annual convention.

Just days later at a farm bill field hearing in the neighboring state of North Dakota, Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) praised the bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on July 27.

"Agriculture is the engine that drives North Dakota's economy, and the farm bill is the fuel that runs that engine," said Conrad.

But not all agree with the House version, Senator Dick Lugar R-Indiana has a different opinion:

"The Farm Bill passed by the House of Representatives is a severe blow to taxpayers, most farmers, rural communities, the environment, and U.S. prospects to export products.

"The House bill fails to reform an expensive and broken farm subsidy system. It will send more money to a few select farmers, while continuing to ignore the vast majority of American farmers. The President is justified in stating that he would veto this legislation.

"When the U.S. Senate considers farm policy later this year, I’m hopeful to build a coalition to advance legislation which allows ALL farmers to assure up to 85 percent of their net farm income through a government backed whole farm insurance program. In addition, ALL farmers would have IRA-type savings accounts to cover the balance of any losses.

"These reforms would also substantially increase rural development, research and deployment of energy from diverse biomass sources, conservation, and nutrition programs, while saving all taxpayers billions of dollars. A broad coalition of humanitarian assistance advocates including Bono, Bread for the World and Oxfam; conservationists such as the Environmental Defense; and obviously taxpayer advocate groups all support ending 70 years of inequitable farm subsidies."

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