Farm Bill

February 27, 2002

February 27, 2002

The Washington Post lead editorial calls it the "Mother of All Pork." I'm talking about the farm bill. The Post draws no distinction between the House Bill or Senate -- it's all pork. The negative publicity that this farm bill has received makes farmers look like a bunch of beggars crying for government handouts. It is publicity like this that can really hurt farmers' image. The public likes us, but the public could change its mind too.'

A quick farm bill -- smooth sailing -- bi-partisan would have saved us a lot of grief. The House bill was bi-partisan. Even President Bush supported the spending in the House bill. The Senate bill was a mean and dirty political flight. Not good. After this bill is completed, I don't think it will ever be the same. We have seen our last very generous farm bill. Future bills will be stingier, fraught with regional and internal battles for a shrinking pot of money.

The House and Senate bills, although both authorize a lot of farm support, they differ in many ways. The target date for ironing out the differences and sending a final bill to President Bush for his signature is March 22nd (Easter recess.)

Here is how I see the outcome.

  • The Senate bill has a bad provision which bans packer ownership of livestock. This won't survive. They'll do a study.
  • The Senate bill has lower payment limitation than the House. The difference will be compromised closer to the House version. With higher numbers.
  • The Senate Bill is front-loaded with more spending in early years.

I don't think it will survive. It costs too much. Where will the Senate prevail?

  • Higher loan rates than the House bill.
  • The Senate bill is a big spender on dairy. The dairy industry has track record or victories.

Will the bill become law in time for this crop year? That's a close call. The important thing to remember is if you think this farm bill has been hard, you ain't seen nothing yet. Wait for the next.

Until next week, I'm John Block from Washington.