The Farm Bill Debate

October 30, 2001

Hello everybody out there in farm country. The John Block Radio

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The Farm Bill debate becomes more interesting and confusing with each passing day. The House with surprising speed and efficiency passed a very generous farm bill. Suddenly Agriculture Secretary Veneman and budget director Mitch Daniels objected. They didn't like the bill.

A ten-year bill is too long. It costs too much. It's not going to fit within the rules of the World Trade Organization. House Ag Committee Chair Larry Combest said, "Now you complain. Where were you when we were writing the bill?" In an interview conducted by Jim Wiesemeyer with Mitch Daniels, the administration seems to be providing some assurance that the money could still be there next year if the Congress would only wait and spend more time working on a bill. In the meantime Senator Lugar, ranking Republican on the Senate Ag committee, has floated out his bill. It is different but not one that I find very appealing. Although the Bush administration is giving it a favorable nod, creating a new program of farm revenue insurance sounds like a bad idea to me. Federal Crop Insurance is already a disaster and always has been. The Conservation Reserve would bump up to 40 million acres. I think we already have enough acres in the reserve now.

The next complication is what will the Senate Ag committee Chair Tom Harkin come up with? Will he want to pass a bill this year? How much time is left? With a war in Afghanistan and anthrax here at home, do we have the time or desire to debate farm policy? I don't think we do.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.