Understanding the Farm Bill

The Senate joined the House yesterday in overriding President Bush’s veto of a $290 billion farm bill. Apparently, Republicans failed to back Bush’s veto sending a very clear message to voters “We don’t like the bastard either! So, it’s okay to re-elect us! We love you!”

Corker and Alexander supported the override, as did 1st District Rep. David Davis. (Davis’ vote is not surprising since our district receives around $62,604,172.00 in subsidies and is ranked 198 out of 410 districts receiving funds from the USDA. )

However, there seems to be a bit of confusion over the bill. 34-pages were omitted from copy sent to the White House. Apparently, the staff was rushed, the final print was not proofread by the enrolling clerk and Title III was omitted from the fancy “parchment paper” copy Dubya received. (I don’t know why they waste good paper for that… you know George probably messes up the fancy copy by using it as a coaster for his Ziegenbock anyway. )

The omission means Title III, which covers trade and some international nutrition programs, was never recognized by Bush’s veto nor by the override votes this week. As a result, no one knows what, if any law, is technically on the books and if there is kinda sorta some law on the books, what process must be undertaken to amend the law to include the missing section… you know, should the missing Title be passed as a separate law with a separate bill number or the entire process repeated under a new bill number and passed, which would replace the first law with the original bill number… or not.

Meanwhile, House Republicans called for an investigation into the stupidity of Democrats and the Democrats were screaming at the Republicans to “just shut-up so we can think for a minute.”

And I’m wondering why someone at the White House didn’t notice there was an entire effin’ number left out, which by the way, proves my theory that Bush doesn’t actually read the full text of bills – but skims the accompanying synopsis sent in pop-up book form.

I suppose they’ll sort it all out after the Memorial Day break.

As it is, the AP breaks down the bill as follows: Food stamps and other domestic nutrition programs such as emergency food assistance: just over 66 percent, about $200 billion. Subsidies for rice, cotton, corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops: 14 percent, around $43 billion. Conservation programs to set aside or protect environmentally sensitive farmland: 9 percent, about $27 billion. Crop insurance to help farmers protect against losses: 8 percent, about $23 billion.

But being instantly suspicious of anything David Davis supports, I attempted to read the bill myself.

Assuming I had the right version – as far as I can tell, the farm bill includes much of the the same old, same old – the programs and subsidies, which hand-out payments to huge farm operations and shaft the little guy particularly those programs based on the amount of land that a farmer owns even if he doesn’t farm it.

It provides payment for folks not to farm, crop transition grants and the same old protections for domestic sugar producers BUT adds a buyback program, under which the federal government must purchase any “excess” sugar from domestic producers at 23 cents per pound — and then immediately resell it to ethanol producers at 2 cents per pound.

There is an income cap contained in the bill, which I think would exclude Bill Gates from receiving USDA monies. And what the hell is qualified forestry conservation bonds? Is this new? The construction of a Chinese Garden at the National Arboretum? Do we really need that? Socially-disadvantaged farmers? What is that – ranchers without Facebook accounts? Can you be a socially-disadvantaged farmer? How does that work? The sun don’t like you?

They’re also conducting a study of railroad issues regarding the movement of agricultural products, domestically produced renewable fuels and domestically produced resources for the production of electricity for rural America, and economic development in rural America. (Whew, what a mouthful.) Shouldn’t this be in the transportation bill? And am I the only person not getting a tax-break out of the bill… maybe I should buy a tractor and a hoe.

Anyway, after several hours of study, I’ve arrived at the conclusion that I have a headache and the text of the damn bill may as well be written in Japanese.

Therefore, I must refer you to John Farmer at the AJC, who wrote:

“[The farm bill] extends the usual subsidies and anti-competitive protections to the usual suspects: giant agribusinesses and individual growers (including wealthy ones) of wheat, corn, cotton, rice, soybeans, sugar and who knows what else. The complexity of the legislation makes the tax code look like “See Dick and Jane run.”

Yeah, what he said.

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One thought on “Understanding the Farm Bill

  1. Pingback: Saturday Afternoon Laundry - Reproducing Like Rabbits - Time , An Ol’ Broad’s Ramblings

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