Lunch with Tom Ewing

February 10, 2000

February 10, 2000

I found myself next to Tom Ewing, Congressman on the House Ag Committee from Illinois, at a lunch last week. Congressman Ewing gave us his thoughts on the hot issues of the day and where we may be headed. Since he has announced his retirement plans for next fall, this makes it even easier for him to be very direct and candid. His view: After so much criticism of the Freedom to Farm bill, the Clinton administration presented their Supplemental Income Assurance Program. What a disappointment! As he put it, the $30,000 payment limitation targets the benefits, not at the real fanners, but at the part time farmers.. Remember last fall when the President called the Republican assistance plan cheap and insisted on increasing the emergency income support? Talk about cheap! The administration plan provides only 3 billion over two years. Now that's cheap!

In talking with Congressman Charlie Stenholm from Texas on another occasion last week, he said that the President's assistance program will definitely be sweetened. Congressman Jerry Moran of Kansas was very critical of the President's budget, cutting food aid in half -- especially when we have all of this surplus. We're supposed to be sending some of it to Russia.

I didn't talk to anyone that felt the President's budget as it relates to agriculture would fly. "Not to worry." The Congress will have the last word.

There is growing pressure on Capitol Hill to put an end to unilateral embargoes. Ending the Cuban embargo will be the hardest. The politics of this one is tough. The Cuban vote is the swing vote in Florida and Al Gore doesn't want to make any enemies. That's it for this week. I am John Block from Washington.