What They're Saying 5-21-2008 | USDA Newsroom
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News Release

Release No. 0132.08
Office of Communications (202)720-4623

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We Missed A Great Opportunity For Historic Reforms

"With Food Prices and Farm Incomes Soaring, this Should be an Historic Moment to Junk a Gimmick-Laden and Wasteful System of Agricultural Subsidies"

"High Agricultural Subsidies, [Reward] Big Farmers That Have Already Gotten Much Richer Because Of The Recent Hike In Food Prices"

The New York Times' David M. Herszenhorn: "Few pieces of legislation generate the level of public scorn consistently heaped upon the farm bill." "Presidents and agriculture secretaries denounce it. Editorial boards rail against it. Good-government groups mock it. Global trading partners formally protest it. Even farmers gripe about it. ... While most of the complaints are directed at Congress for squandering an opportunity to revamp farm subsidies when crops are at record-high prices, the sweeping 673-page bill touches on so many other issues of enormous importance to lawmakers and their constituents, rural and urban alike, that many say it is no longer accurate to call it the 'farm bill.'" (David M. Herszenhorn, "Reaching Well Beyond the Farm," The New York Times, 5/20/08)

The Washington Post: "Since the amount of the subsidy for 2009 is tied to recent record prices, farmers could reap a windfall if prices drop suddenly." "A major new program in the recently enacted farm bill could increase taxpayer-financed payments to farmers by billions of dollars if high commodity prices decline to more typical levels, administration and congressional budget officials said yesterday. ... [A]s the farm bill moved through Congress, lawmakers sweetened the subsidy provisions, in part to encourage more farmers to sign up. The final version of the program is more generous than ones proposed earlier by the House and the Bush administration." (Dan Morgan, "Farm Bill's Subsidy Costs May Rise," The Washington Post, 5/21/08)

The New York Times' David Brooks: "Farmers in the top 1 percent of earners qualify for federal payments." "Under the legislation, the government will buy sugar for roughly twice the world price and then resell it at an 80 percent loss. Parts of the bill that would have protected wetlands and wildlife habitat were deleted or shrunk." (David Brooks, Op-Ed, "Talking Versus Doing," The New York Times, 5/20/08)

The Toronto Star's Martin Khor: "[B]oth Houses in the United States Congress passed a Farm Bill that continues the present system of high agricultural subsidies, rewarding big farmers that have already gotten much richer because of the recent hike in food prices." "Because it facilitates the continuation and in some ways the worsening of the high subsidies, the Bill will send the wrong signals to the trading partners of the US and further sour the mood at the World Trade Organisation whose members are already facing an uphill battle to finish the Doha negotiations." (Martin Khor, Op-Ed, "New U.S. Farm Bill Will Anger The World," The Toronto Star, 5/19/08)

Dallas Morning News' William McKenzie: "Mr. Bush gets the picture." "Congress last week missed one of those rare chances to change how we think about the way the world works. ... There's a new way to see farm policy, however, and it revolves around connecting the developed world to the developing world. More than ever, ag policies shape everything from how crops grown in Texas and Kansas affect food prices in Egypt, Haiti and Cambodia." (William McKenzie, Op-Ed, "Fresh Thinking Dries Up In Farm Bill," Dallas Morning News, 5/20/08)

Human Events' Martha Zoller: "This was the continuation of the farm bills of old, larded with every sort of special subsidy and earmarks for every porker in the Senate." "The problem with the bill is not just the agriculture component; it is the bill's scope. It's become a Christmas tree of sorts. ... Come on guys and gals, let's do the work of the people and be honest about what you are doing." (Martha Zoller, Op-Ed, "The Farm Bill Shell Game," Human Events, 5/20/08)

The Christian Science Monitor's Gail Russell Chaddock: "Democrats won control of the House and Senate in 2006 in part by calling for a rollback of tax breaks for the rich. But the definition of rich has varied widely." "The farm bill on the way to the president's desk this week limits eligibility for farm subsidies to individuals with an adjusted gross farm income of less than $750,000; $1.5 million for couples. That's down from the $2.5 million for couples under current law, but President Bush wants the eligibility cap for farm subsidies to be much lower: $200,000." (Gail Russell Chaddock, Op-Ed, "Farm Bill Highlights Rich-Poor Debate," The Christian Science Monitor, 5/19/08)

"Farm Subsidies Distort Domestic Markets By Favoring Large Agribusiness Concerns Over Family Farmers And Undercut The Economies Of Poor Nations And International Trade Talks"

The San Francisco Chronicle: "A better solution would be a deserved White House veto that survives a congressional challenge." "With food prices and farm incomes soaring, this should be an historic moment to junk a gimmick-laden and wasteful system of agricultural subsidies. But both Democrats and Republicans in Congress have lined up behind a five-year, $300 billion farm bill that changes little." (Editorial, "Farm Bill Foolery," The San Francisco Chronicle, 5/20/08)

Center for Rural Affairs' Elisha Greeley Smith: "[T]he final bill failed to address the advantages the farm program gives to mega farmers." "The Center for Rural Affairs opposed passage of the new farm bill because it commits the federal government to subsidizing the destruction of family farming for another five years and invests little in the future of rural communities." (Elisha Greeley Smith, Op-Ed, "Provisions Do Not Exceed Losses," Center for Rural Affairs, 5/20/08)

The Detroit News: "[T]he five-year, $307 billion farm bill is ... ludicrous." "The bill is riddled with pork barrel spending. Its backers have co-opted nearly every state of the union. It even aids fruit and vegetable growers for the first time, attracting votes from California, Florida and Michigan. The result: taxpayers will be funding special interest projects for years to come." (Editorial, "Bloated Farm Bill Should Be Plowed Under," The Detroit [MI] News, 5/21/08)

Kansas City Star: "The bill passed last week ... is a travesty." "Congress did virtually nothing to end the pick-a-price trick, which allows farmers to lock in subsidy payments when prices are low while holding the crop and selling it later when prices are high." (Editorial, "Farm Bill Is A Mixture Of Old And New Mistakes," Kansas City [MO] Star, 5/17/08)

Des Moines Register: "For all the good in the bill, the so-called subsidy reforms are laughable." "By failing to curb abuses in subsidy programs, this legislation fails two basic tests for a sensible farm bill: It neither spends taxpayer dollars wisely nor benefits farmers and rural communities that need help most. ... [F]armers still need a safety net. But taxpayer subsidies should deliver a societal benefit - such as protecting the nation's soil and water - and not merely line someone's pockets." (Editorial, "Veto The Farm Bill, Mr. President," Des Moines [IA] Register, 5/17/08)

St. Louis Post-Dispatch: "The World Trade Organization already has ruled that our cotton program violates international treaties, and we're likely to lose other cases as well." "Trade agreements, of course, are not popular on Capitol Hill these days. Green policy is, which makes it hard to understand why this farm bill trims a wetlands program and lets farmers collect subsidies even if they plow up native prairie. Moreover, if that marginal land doesn't produce much of a crop, the sod busters can collect from Uncle Sam's new standby disaster fund." (David Nicklaus, Op-Ed, "Pork-laden Farm Bill Will Reward The Rich Richly," St. Louis [MO] Post-Dispatch, 5/18/08)

The Buffalo News: "Congress has refused to make any real dent in the toweringly expensive grain and cotton subsidy programs." "Those programs will continue to funnel billions in subsidies from taxpayers who will never see that kind of wealth to, in many cases, absentee landowners who may never see the inside of a barn." (Editorial, "Crop Subsidies Survive," The Buffalo [NY] News, 5/17/08)

The Tampa Tribune: "President Bush has vowed to veto this congressional goody bag, and he should make good on that promise." "Farm subsidies distort domestic markets by favoring large agribusiness concerns over family farmers and undercut the economies of poor nations and international trade talks. Other nations look at America's rich handouts to farmers and wonder why they should lower trade barriers to their own markets." (Editorial, "'Farm Bill' A Fancy Way Of Saying 'Welfare'," The Tampa [FL] Tribune, 5/20/08)

"If You Are Not Going To Make These Changes Now, When On Earth Are You Going To Make Them?"

Council for Citizens Against Government Waste President Tom Schatz: "With 2008 net farm income forecast to be $92 billion (51 percent above its 10-year average), this should have been the perfect opportunity to provide real reform of farm policy." "Instead, the farm bill simply continues the present system that doles out huge payments to wealthy farmers, whether they are needed or not." (Joseph Curl, "McCain Urges Farm Bill Veto," The Washington Times, 5/20/08)

Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook: "If you are not going to make these changes now, when on earth are you going to make them?" "It really is shocking that they did so little. It's a measure of the pressure this bill can put on people. If you are from subsidy country, you are expected to bring home the bacon." (David M. Herszenhorn, "Reaching Well Beyond the Farm," The New York Times, 5/20/08)

"This Bill Is An Absence Of Leadership"

Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI): "You need a few members of Congress here to stand up today and say the emperor has no clothes." "It's more status quo...The president is right. We ought not be giving taxpayer subsidies to wealthy individuals at a time of record-high commodity prices in the marketplace." (David M. Herszenhorn, "Reaching Well Beyond the Farm," The New York Times, 5/20/08)

Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL): "We missed a great opportunity for historic reforms." "Farmers need to base their crop planning decisions on the markets, and not on government subsidies and regulations." (Eun Kyung Kim, "Miller: Farm Bill Too Costly," Pensacola News Journal [FL], 5/15/08)

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI): "This bill is an absence of leadership." (Robert D. Novak, "The GOP At The Trough," The Washington Post, 5/19/08)

Sen. John Sununu (R-NH): "At a time when farms are experiencing record profit, there is absolutely no reason to provide price supports for sugar and extend the ethanol tariff." "The bill is a continuation of bad economic policy that taxpayers in New Hampshire and across the country do not deserve." (Frederic J. Frommer, "Farm Bill Includes Lots Of Help For Sugar Growers," The Associated Press, 5/21/08)