Farm Bill

November 29, 2006

November 29, 2006

Farm bills are not written in a vacuum. They are a product of their time. And the 2007 farm bill will be a product of the most different time in my memory.

We have a budget deficit pushing us to cut spending. The big city papers rant about the "obscene" cost of farm programs.

The World Trade Organization finds that our program "distorts world markets."

There is a global rush to increase energy supplies. We are committed to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Farm prices are strong with new ethanol and biodiesel plants gobbling up corn and soybeans.

And we have new Congressional leadership. They aren't going to listen very much to the Bush Administration when writing legislation.

House Ag Committee Chairman Colin Peterson from Minnesota, Senate Chair Tom Harkin from Iowa, Senator Dick Durbin from Illinois -- all Midwest -- all like the current farm bilL They will change it some. They have to. But I don't expect the kind of dramatic change that the Bush Administration has in mind.

One of the most powerful drivers for farm bill change is the cost of the current bill. But when we are right in the middle ofwriting the new bill next year, the flashing red light ofcost will have turned green. The cost is melting away as grain prices climb. The critics pointing to the cost of farm programs won't have a leg to stand on.

So we tweak the current bill to conform to WTO rules, add a little more money for conservation, a little more for research, an energy section, and Presto! -- with farm prices on a new plateau, the automatic cost savings will satisfy the critics.

Declare victory and celebrate. That's how I see it.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.