Secretary of Agriculture Chuck Conner blasted the House and Senate farm bills at the recent South Dakota Corn Growers Association meeting.
He says the Bush Administration is concerned about what's in and what's missing from the farm bill, including:
Taxes. The senate version revies heavily upon tax increases to fund programs, according to Conner. "Our analysis … shows that it relies on nearly $22 billion of budget gimmicks to obscure its true cost. It claims nearly $10 billion of illusionary savings from delayed payments and speeding up collection of commodity and crop insurance programs."
Trade distorting practices. Providing higher loan rates and target prices as has been done in both the House and the Senate bill, is moving in the wrong direction, Conner says. "We've described it as painting as bull's eye on our back [in World Trade Organization negotiations]. At a time that we have record exports, record farm income, good prices, we don't need a bull's eye on our back."
Payment limitation reform. Neither the House nor the Senate has gone far enough, Conner says, toward imposing a meaningful income cap on participation in farm programs. He presented a map showing how many farm program payments go to residents living on Park Avenue in Manhattan, New York. "Why are we giving farm program tax income support dollars to these people? It just simply makes no sense," he said.
House and Senate farm bills need to be changed by the conference committee, Conner says.
"The bills passed by the House and the Senate, as they stand today, are not on the road to a successful conclusion of this farm bill. Not yet," Conner says.
To read a transcript of his remarks go to: www.usda.gov/2008/01/0006.xml.