Statement by Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer on House Passage of the Farm Bill Conference Report
Washington, D.C. - May 14, 2008 "For over a year, Congress has had the opportunity to work with the Administration to craft a farm bill that delivers reform to outdated, costly farm programs while strengthening the safety net and adhering to fiscal discipline in a time of nationwide economic challenge. Instead, Congress chose a different path, and today they passed a bloated, earmark laden bill that spends nearly $20 billion over its original cost and continues to balance subsidy payments to the wealthy on the backs of the middle class taxpayer.
"The bill passed today is a farm bill in name only. It does not target help for the farmers who really need it, and it increases the size and cost of government while jeopardizing the future of legitimate farm programs by damaging the credibility of farm bills in general. At a time of record setting income for farmers, it sends the wrong message to the rest of the country who are not experiencing the boom of the agriculture sector. This bill is loaded with taxpayer funded pet projects at a time when Americans are struggling to buy groceries and afford gas to get to work.
"Eight months behind schedule, Congress will send a bill to the President that is trade distorting and fails to provide meaningful reform to the adjusted gross income limit, beneficial interest or the international food aid program. However it is better late than never for the beneficiaries of the massive earmarks in this bill, like the $170 million for the salmon fishermen on the West Coast, or $250 million for a single entity land buy in Montana, just to name a few.
"Reckless spending like this is not what farm bills should be about. Congress had a real chance to implement reform and strengthen farm programs for the next decade. This reform could have allowed for savings to be reinvested in future agriculture needs, such as energy and research. Instead, they decided to spend billions upon billions of taxpayer dollars to grow government and invest in the tired status quo.
"The President will veto this bill, and I encourage Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to support his stand for fiscal discipline and the best interests of America's farmers and ranchers."