A farm bill has been enacted into law over the objection of the president, or, should we say that a $307 billion bill that funds some agricultural programs has been approved by Congress?
"The unfortunate part with the farm bill is, so little of it has anything to do with agriculture."
That complaint is lodged by northwest Missouri Congressman Sam Graves, a Republican who sits on the US House Agriculture Committee. Graves has heard the complaints about the bloated farm bill and is quick to point out that $209 billion of the $307 billion bill pays for nutrition programs, such as food stamps and school lunches. Graves says the bill gained weight during the legislative process in Washington, D. C. He says the House Agriculture Committee, working in a bi-partisan manner, completed their portion of the bill months ago.
The highlights of the actual farm programs in the bill include a $35 billion commodity safety net and $30 billion for the counter-cyclical program, the marketing loan program and milk income loss compensation. The bill also creates a permanent agriculture disaster aid program valued at $3.7 billion over the five year life of the bill and $5 billion for conservation programs.
Graves says if corn, soybean and wheat prices remain high, farmers won’t tap the commodity safety net. He says the agriculture disaster aid program is designed to more prudently handle the impact severe weather has on farmers.
Graves says very little of the debate on the farm bill centers on agriculture policy, including the complaints President Bush had about the bill.
"So it does get frustrating that the debate centers around things that have nothing to do with farming, nothing to do with agriculture or food policy," says Graves, "Yet it’s farmers who take the brunt of the criticism on this."