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

Bryan Grayson bryan.grayson
Fri Apr 25 13:55:29 CDT 2008

Rubaie is just trying to scare people into voting for Russia. Nothing he
cited comes remotely close to suggesting that Congress is likely to cut
subsidies. The closest he has is a card quoting one person suggesting that
cutting subsidies would be the most drastic option that Congress could
consider in the farm bill negotiations. It does not conclude that Congress
is seriously considering this option. Also, his evidence about Bush still
pushing for subsidy cuts doesn't mention subsidies, it is talking about food
stamp programs in the farm bill. Even if subsidies were to get cut, they
would only be trimmed by a few billion dollars from what I've read, which
amounts to practically nothing when you consider the fact that we subsidize
agriculture to the tune of over $300 billion a year. And the remaining
disputes in farm bill negotiations are about things like nutrition programs
and food stamps, not subsidies. The chances of the conference committee
making an eleventh hour decision to make massive subsidy cuts is virtually

There were fiscal conservatives that pushed for subsidy cuts in both houses
of Congress. But congressional leaders knew those bills couldn't pass, so
any meaningful cuts were stripped from the bills. Even in the extremely
unlikely scenario that the conference committee tries to make cuts to
commodity programs, the conference bill has to get approved by both houses
of Congress, which won't happen if it includes subsidy cuts. Bush originally
proposed cuts in subsidies. And both houses of Congress handily rejected his
proposal by passing bills that increased subsidies.

Even assuming the worst case scenario that some subsidies get cut, they
would only be commodity subsidies, which is just a fraction of the
affirmatives discussed in the controversy paper.

As for the concern about the Bush veto, when it comes to vetoes it is
usually a safe bet that Bush is all talk and won't follow through. Sure he's
vetoed a few bills. But the likelihood of him vetoing a massive farm bill
that is overwhelmingly supported by farm lobbies is unlikely. It would not
help Republicans in November. This article concludes Bush's veto threat
isn't credible:

Finally, a Bush veto will not mean that subsidies disappear and don't get
renewed. It would only mean a reversion to 2002 farm policy. I don't think
this is disastrous for the topic. There would be still be a substantially
more in depth debates about agricultural policy than occurred on the Europe

The potential problem Rubaie points out is nothing close to comparable to
the overrules uniqueness problem he references. A resolution can easily be
written to ensure that the aff must make big subsidy cuts and therefore a
substantial shift from the status quo. Nobody thinks big subsidy cuts are
coming now.

Lots of articles indicate that farm bill negotiations are nearing the final
stage and likely to wrap up in the coming weeks. Once that happens farm
policy will be locked in for around five years. Any "global uniqueness"
problems for an agricultural topic are substantially less than those that
would exist on Russia, as others have already pointed out.

Bryan Grayson

On Fri, Apr 25, 2008 at 12:14 PM, brian rubaie <brubaie at gmail.com> wrote:

> 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 (
> http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/24/washington/24farm.html?em&ex=1209182400&en=b929fb0ef3f9165f&ei=5087%0A)
> 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 prices<http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/f/food_prices/index.html?inline=nyt-classifier>.
> -- 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 reform and 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 --
> http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2006/02/just_say_no_to_.html
> .
> 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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