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STATEMENT BY AGRICULTURE DEPUTY SECRETARY CHUCK CONNER ON THE PRESIDENT'S VETO OF THE FARM BILL
WASHINGTON, May 21, 2008- "Today the President vetoed a piece of legislation that failed to implement meaningful reform to our farm programs while increasing taxpayer spending by over $20 billion. This massive spending package - in a time of escalating food prices and gas closing in on $4 a gallon – is simply unacceptable.
The President has stated time and time again that he would not accept a farm bill that fails to reform farm programs at a time when farm income and crop prices are setting records, and he has remained true to his word. It is irresponsible to ask the American taxpayer who is struggling to make ends meet, to subsidize farm couples and those who make more than a million dollars a year. This is bad policy, and unfair.
The U.S. Farm economy has never been stronger.
The Administration supports our farmers and ranchers, and has sought out good policies that will move agriculture and rural America forward. Unfortunately, this bill continues to support programs that benefit those who do not need it, and because of this, our non-farmers in America are justifiably questioning the rationale and fairness behind farm bills in general.
As more of this 1700 page spending bill becomes unveiled, we learn more about the taxpayer abuses and unsound policy that is in this bill. Just recently it was brought to light that a $170 million earmark for the salmon industry was slipped into this bill at the last moment. It joins other egregious earmarks, such as millions for a ski resort in Vermont and $250 million for a federal land grab in Montana. And Congress, has included last minute changes to the so-called ACRE farm subsidy program that likely will result in tens of billions of new government outlays in the future.
Yet the Congress claims this provision saves money.
To pay for this bill, Congress relies on budget gimmicks such as timing shifts of payments and forcing some businesses to pay their taxes early to help cover the $20 billion in extra spending in this bill.
For more than a year, the Administration worked with Congress in an effort to develop a good farm bill that the President could sign. We worked to craft a measure that brought real reform to farm programs while working to protect the safety net for rural America. We based our proposal on comments from all across America, and concentrated on policies that targeted farmers who really needed help. This included ending subsidies to the wealthiest Americans ---- those with an adjusted gross income of over $200,000.
Yet Congress decided to go in another direction, and sent the President a bill that grossly overspends in typical Washington, DC fashion.
This veto is the right thing to do, and Congress should support the President's decision. The Congress should extend the current farm bill rather than jeopardize America's support for the farm bill with wasteful spending that fails to target payments to farmers who really need the support."