[eDebate] Agriculture Uniqueness; The return of "overrules now"

brian rubaie brubaie
Fri Apr 25 12:14:34 CDT 2008

Biofuel mandates will likely remain in either administration. However, I
have two concerns with the 2007 Farm Bill's effect on Ag uniqueness
questions --

1) It may very well decrease subsidies. This was in Bush's original
proposal, crop prices are high, the Farm Bill is bloated and something
desperately needs to be cut, and the last thing for Congress to do is hammer
out the money. Right now they're $16bn over.

2) It may increase subsidies but change the mechanism for their delivery
(see "Compromise" below). Evidence for both points is below. I will conclude
by addressing the Ag topic paper's discussion of the Farm Bill.

-- The current version of the Farm Bill would increase subsidy payments.
NYT. 4-24-08 (

As Congress works toward final passage of the farm bill, it is poised to
continue most of the existing farmer subsidy programs, including about $5.2
billion a year in so-called "direct payments" that will be disbursed even as
net farm income is projected to hit a historic high in 2008.

The farm bill, which comes along once every five years and will cost upward
of $300 billion, in fact will do little to address many of the most pressing
concerns. It will not change biofuel mandates that are directing more corn
to ethanol and contributing to a global rise in food

-- However, Bush has criticized the cost. New food stamp/nutrition
assistance, a key to passage, has put the Farm Bill $16bn over budget. Bush
is still considering slashing subsidies
(same cite)

The White House, too, has joined the criticism, sharply criticizing Congress
for proposing to spend $16 billion more than was initially allocated for the
farm bill ? mostly for increases in food stamps ? at a time when high
profits would seem to allow cuts in subsidies.

"With record farm income, now is not the time for Congress to ask other
sectors of the economy to pay higher taxes, in order to increase the size of
government," the White House said in a statement Tuesday calling for a
one-year extension of the current farm law.

-- One thing to look for in upcoming Farm Bill disputes is Bush's threat to
veto. The question is whether he'll put up a fight on his subsidy proposals
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 4-1-'08 ("FARM BILL: MAKING IT WORSE." P. Lexis)
We hope Bush is ready for a veto fight on the kind of farm bill he most
likely will receive. Early on, he presented valuable proposals for reforming
the entire farm subsidy system in ways that would comply with international
trade rules, provide assistance when farmers really need it and cut out the
richest recipients of aid.** Instead, Congress has largely neglected
reformand the savings that would have followed

-- COMPROMISE - even if it isn't vetoed, farm subsides could easily be the
first compromise, especially in an era of high crop prices. The compromise
would eliminate direct subsidy payments to farmers and create a new revenue
assurance program. The compromise even has the support of one of the farm
industry's largest advocates
(NYT, above)

"It's a train wreck waiting to happen," said Tom Buis, the president of the
National Farmers Union.

Many experts say the biggest step Congress could take would be to eliminate
the direct payments in favor of a new revenue assurance program that would
help farmers in times of need, but save money in boom years when crop yields
are strong and prices high.

It is a step that even many farmers say would make sense.

"As a farm leader, I can't justify why someone should receive a guaranteed
payment from the federal government, with the high prices they are getting
from the marketplace," Mr. Buis said.
****AT: Topic Paper

The topic paper makes two main assurances to people worried about the Farm
Bill --

1) "Congress will not make any significant cuts in federal support for
agricultural producers. The warrant for this argument is election pressure,
specifically the notion that "there is an implicit bipartisan agreement that
Congress cannot cut subsidies in an election year." They cite --

It is not "an implicit agreement," and your author never supports that it
was. In fact, your author cites no political theory at all. Your author
cites that further cuts were acceptable because "we just reduced funding for
a number of non-dairy agriculture programs" by $2.7 billion, net, over five
years." The House said no more subsidy cuts BECAUSE THEY HAD JUST CUT $3BN
IN SUBSIDIES, not because there is an implicit bargain. This theory is based
on the article title, not on the facts.

The bottom line is that Bush pushed for subsides and the current Farm Bill
is bloated. Something will have to be slashed. Even top Farm Union advocates
support that it should come out of direct subsidy investments. Does this
wreck the topic? Not really, but it does wreck uniqueness, and that seems to
be a major concern of Ag advocates.

2) "If an agreement cannot be reached on the 2007 Farm Bill, Congress will
likely be forced to opt to extend the 2002 Farm Bill for another two years.5
Bush and some members of Congress have begun to express their support for
this strategy."

It is highly unlikely they'll default to the 2002 Farm Bill. They have
passed SEVEN extensions since September. Congress is obviously working to
get it done, it is a top Bush administration priority, and top officials
(Conner, Harkin etc.) have gone into overdrive to produce a bill. I will bet
anyone $5 that the 2007 Farm Bill passes.

Supposing it doesn't, though, and we revert to the more stable 2002
subsidies, it IS the Europe topic again. As noted in p.8 of the Ag paper;
"things have changed since the Europe topic....The 2002 Farm Bill is in the
process of being replaced..."
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