Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Why I'm not posting much about the farm bill...

Two reasons:

1. I don't care very much. I working on 2009-10 proforma budgets and when I can sell '09 beans at $12.90 and corn at nearly $5.00, tell me again why a $24 DCP needs to be my uppermost worry.

Yeah, yeah - the world could come to an end and we'll all be begging for LDP's. I severely discount that possibility and invite those who bet on it to stand ready to be be wrong in the competition for land.

2. We're not just getting mixed signals. We're getting wildly opposing signals.

One view:

Peter Shinn reported yesterday at Brownfield that, “An extension of the 2002 farm law through at least the end of 2009 is looking increasingly inevitable as negotiations on the next farm law drag on toward the March 15th expiry of the current extension of the 2002 measure. That’s the word from Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa, who put the blame squarely upon the Bush administration for the current farm bill stalemate.

“Harkin, in an exclusive interview with Brownfield Sunday evening, noted the Senate passed its version of the farm bill by a veto-proof margin of 79 votes, a tally he said would have totaled 83 except ‘four people were out running for President.’ Harkin added that he could hardly be blamed for not producing a bi-partisan measure.”

Mr. Shinn indicated that, “According to Harkin, the President’s farm bill team has been inflexible on what the farm bill will cost and how it’s to be funded. Brownfield pointed out that new U.S. Ag Secretary Ed Schafer and Deputy U.S. Ag Secretary Chuck Conner have both suggested as recently as Thursday that they might be getting more willing to compromise on both those questions. But Harkin said the conciliatory talk of Schafer and Conner hasn’t matched their actions at the negotiating table.

“‘Oh, I’m always encouraged by it, but every time we sit down nothing ever happens and we’ve been sitting down for the last couple of weeks,’ said Harkin. ‘There’s got to be some movement from the White House and I have not seen that yet.’ [More]
Another view (from that irrepressible media supplier and rock musician Rep. Peterson):
A clearly upbeat – yet cautious – House Ag Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), in an interview with me Sunday evening, said he was the most optimistic he has been “in one year and two months” regarding reaching funding levels and details for a new farm bill, “and this is the first time I do not feel totally alone,” he added.
But my favorite was this political trash-talk:
Peterson said he wants the farm bill process to continue to be inclusive, including meeting with Bush administration officials. “But if they do not work with us, we will run over them. That will be our message to them – work with us, not against us. We want everyone on board.” [More by subscription]
Jeez - what part of "veto" does he not comprehend? But this has been typical bluster from Peterson. If you want to bet the farm on it, OK. I'm going to assume the President is really going to do what he has said time after time: veto any bill with tax increases and no true reform. (Another reason I will be listening closely to Sec. Shafer at the Commodity Classic on Friday)

And a veto or extension means a slow death for farm policy as we know it, and less political leverage for those who make it their only legislative skill.

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