Farm Bill Process

August 1, 2007

August 1, 2007

Hello everybody out their in farm country. I'm speaking to you today by phone from Sioux City, Iowa.

I want to report to you this week that ADM -my radio sponsor for the last 3 years -will not be sponsoring in the future. I want to thank ADM -- a great ag company -- for supporting our industry. I am in the process of working to get a new sponsor. If you like the John Block Commentary, send me an e-mail..

Now for today' s commentary.

It will be the Senate Ag Committee's turn next to try to put together a farm bill that can pass the full Senate. The House bill and Senate bill must then be reconciled into one bill acceptable to both Houses. Then the question is -- will President Bush sign it? It is a long road.

Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa Chairing the Senate Ag Committee plans to begin work on the Senate bill in September. I was at a recent luncheon where he spoke. He gave us some indication where his priorities lie. He will definitely put more emphasis on conservation, asking for $6 B of new money. I have no idea where he will get it. Chairman Peterson added $4 billion for nutrition to the House bill by increasing taxes on select foreign corporations, creating a fire storm of Republican accllsations that he was "poisoning the bill."

Senator Harkin also wants $4 B for an energy section in his bill. He stressed that we look to the future -- not the past. "We are on the threshold of a golden age in agriculture."

The process of passing a farm bill is fascinating. To get the votes for the House bill, the Democrat leadership had to get support from the nutrition community. That's where 65% of the money goes. And they did get support. Food Stamps and school lunch will get $4 B of new money. Country of origin labeling is mandated. The Congressional Black Caucus got 100 million dollars of new money. You see -those votes are not free. They had to be bought and paid for. Then -- to get the money they taxed some foreign companies. Republicans objected. Democrats said they were just closing a loophole.

Step back and look at where we are today. It is very important to note that the ag interests are solid behind Chairman Peterson' s bill. Even Farm Bureau and the Farmers Union have joined hands in support. I don't ever remember that kind of an alliance. Congressman Kind offered a major program reform amendment. It was dealt a stunning defeat. It is clear there is not a lot of appetite for big change.

Stay tuned -- until next week, I am John Block from Washington.