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Last-ditch effort to stop farm bill

Boehner, vice chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said the conference report, filed by the House-Senate conferees yesterday, represented a “giant leap backward” for federal farm policy.

“Under this legislation, farmers won’t get the safety net they are looking for; they will get caught in a trap – a trap that will lead to overproduction, lower prices, and more reliance on the federal government for their income,” said Boehner, a member of the conference committee.

But Rep. Larry Combest, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee and of the conference committee, said it was “this conference report or nothing” for farmers who are facing the fifth year of record low prices and one of the most serious recessions in American agriculture since the Great Depression.

“If this report fails, Congress will have no choice but to begin work on another emergency spending bill to provide the needed help for our farmers,” Combest noted in speaking on behalf of the report.

Boehner said that government payments already represent more than 40 percent of net farm income, said Boehner. This percentage will only increase over the course of this bill, as the bill pushes agriculture away from the market and toward more government reliance.

“This agreement greatly expands the Federal government’s role in American agriculture,” Boehner noted. “A new dairy program will lead to overproduction and lower prices. A new, untested Conservation Security Program will draw needed funds from proven conservation programs. And new peanut, apple, onion, pea, and lentil programs will drain billions more from the federal budget.”

Combest noted that Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said yesterday that she would recommend that the president sign it and that President Bush had issued a statement today, praising the work of the House-Senate conference committee.

The statement by the president read:

“I congratulate Chairman Combest and the other House and Senate conferees for a job well done in completing the Farm Security and Rural Development Act of 2002.

“I am pleased that the compromise agreement on the farm bill resulted in better-balanced commodity loan rates; spending that is no longer front-loaded; and the strongest conservation provisions of any farm bill ever passed by Congress. The final provisions of the farm bill are also consistent with America's international trade obligations, which will strengthen our ability to open foreign markets for American farm products.

“While this compromise agreement did not satisfy all of my objectives, I am pleased that this farm bill provides a generous and reliable safety net for our Nation's farmers and ranchers and is consistent with the principles I outlined. I thank the conferees for their hard work and urge Congress to send the farm bill to my desk promptly for signature to help ensure the immediate and long-term vitality of our farm economy.”

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