Acting Ag Secretary Conner stayed on message from the White House this weekend:
Conner, a veteran of the USDA, said it's the sixth farm bill he's worked on. The $286 billion legislation "looks bleak from my vantage point, I can tell you that," he said.I think these warnings have been given often enough to make backpedaling extremely difficult for the President and absolutely devastating to the credibility of his officials like Conner, who have uttered (and re-uttered) them.
If some key provisions in the versions that passed the House and Senate can't be changed, it will put U.S. agricultural policy on shaky ground, Conner said, "and it is one that I and the president's other senior advisers on agriculture will recommend that he veto if it is presented to him. I do not say this lightly."
The House farm bill passed 231-191, and the Senate version passed 79-14. A conference committee is the next step.
Both versions contain tax increases, Conner said, adding that "budget gimmicks" are being used to increase the size of some programs, and there are increases in target prices and loan rates.
"Raising taxes to pay for farm programs ... is something we have not done since 1933," the ag secretary said. The conference committee must correct this, he said, adding that other sectors of the economy should not be asked to pay new taxes to fund new farm programs.
Real farm policy reform is what's missing from the legislation, he said. Neither bill goes far enough toward imposing a meaningful income cap for participation in farm programs, according to Conner. People who make over $200,000 a year averaged over three years should not be getting farm program payments, he said. [More]
So what if (as I think) the conference committee calls his bluff? Jim Weismeyer at ProFarmer will be the go-to source for me, but I could see the House Republicans balking at at a bill Bush has turned thumbs down on. They simply don't have time to go through the override process. And I am still not counting an extension of the current bill out.
And BTW - anybody have any idea where Gov. Huckabee stands on farm policy?