Farm Bill

May 14, 2008

May 14, 2008

Hello everybody out there in farm country. This radio commentary is brought to you by the Renewable Fuels Association, Wal-Mart Stores, and Monsanto. They are all friends, supporters, and allies of a healthy farm economy and prosperous rural America. Thank you.

And now for today's commentary.

For weeks, I have avoided talking about the farm bill. The process of reaching some kind of consensus has been excruciatingly painful. But, at long last, something is happening. We may get a bill. President Bush is not going to sign it, but maybe the Congress will override his veto. After all the agonizing work to get this far, I think the odds favor an override. The Senate will likely override, but the House is in doubt.

You may wonder why it has been so hard to put together a bill. It' s because the "farm bill" is not just a farm bill. It has everything but the kitchen sink in it. Three fourths of the money in the bill goes to nutrition programs -- food stamps, school lunch, WIC, etc. Food prices are up. It will cost more to buy the food for the food programs. Also, with a weak economy, more individuals will need assistance. That means the food programs will cost more money. The farm supports are the only reductions in spending.

Those expenditures are cut in half. That's fine. At these prices, farmers are getting their money out of the marketplace. And that's the way we like it.

When talking to farmers, it is interesting, and different from years past. Their number 1 priority is not a generous farm bill. Not that a safety net isn't of interest. It is just that keeping the trade channels open, protecting bio fuels, and getting their money from the marketplace tops their agenda.

If we don't get a farm bill after all of this work, time, and effort, the easy thing for the Congress to do would be to extend the current law. That would disappoint a lot of people that are counting on the little goodies that are tucked away in this bill.

My prediction – we'll get a bill.

Until next week, I am John Block from Washington.