Sunday, January 07, 2007

Other voices in the Farm Bill debate (Volume 2)...

I've been noticing that casual web searches for "farm bill" yield some unexpected hits. While few farmers worry about do-gooders being able to touch our LDP's, there do seem to be a few more factions weighing in this time around:
Bread for the World hasn't released the kits yet, but the message will be this: America has a moral obligation to change the way it subsidizes farmers and put more money into conservation, nutrition and rural development.

"What we have learned is that the current system does not work for rural America," said the Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "Disproportionately, the money in the farm bill is going to a relatively few people, mostly prosperous people." [More]

My comment: It is hard to use "pit bull" defense tactics on benevolent organizations like this if you are a farm lobbyist, unlike say, complaints from the sugar users or the oil industry. Some of us may even find our consciences listening to them. Plus the incredibly concentrated distribution of farm payments is receiving more and more media coverage. It's hard to keep enough lipstick on this pig.

Maryland farmers are not getting their fair share of the money that the federal government hands out each year in farm production payments. That's a major complaint of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, which says that if bay region growers received as much funding as their Corn Belt counterparts, the bay could be a lot cleaner.

An analysis by the environmental group shows that for every dollar's worth of food produced in Maryland, farmers receive 4.8 cents in federal support money. That is well below the national average of 9 cents. Farmers in North Dakota receive an average of 22 cents in federal payments.

The payment figures are based on the foundation's analysis of the U.S. Department of Agriculture farm support payment data for 2000 to 2005. [More]

My comment: While there has always some internecine squabbling between regions over farm payments, the EWG has demonstrated that one guy with a laptop can sort the numbers to reveal inequities - you don't have to wait years for the USDA to describe what happened in the past in vague terms. Now every group is doing their own number crunching.

Moreover, I don't know how to break it to these folks, but farm subsidies are not about food. If they were, we wouldn't send cotton farmers money, right? Farm payments are political subsidies - we get them because we can make Congress do it. And when acres vote (the Senate) ND will win over MD every time.

  • Democrats - the party of fiscal discipline (Benefit of the Doubt Rule #6) But seriously,
Also on Friday, Democrats will focus on "fiscal responsibility" through debate of measures promoting "Pay-As-You-Go" (PAYGO) budgeting and earmark reform, a reference to pork-barrel projects or line items inserted in "must-pass" legislation.

According to a Democratic fact sheet, PAYGO restrictions "will not allow consideration of any bill, amendment or conference report where the combined effect of provisions affecting mandatory spending (such as Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and farm bills) and revenue would increase the deficit over the five-year and 10-year windows, relative to the Congressional Budget Office baseline." [More]

My comment: I'd sooner bet on Rex Grossman as Super Bowl MVP, but hey - they deserve their chance. The image of a Democrat Congress tackling farm bill costs only is possible for me to envision if I factor in a payment limit and/or increased money for conservation, and political voter polls which convince Democrats are going to lose southern rural voters anyway because of social issues.

Coming up in my next post about new voices in the farm bill debate:
  • International Chess Federation
  • Estonian Parliament
  • American Chemical Society
You aren't sure I'm kidding, are you?

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