The downside of bipartisanship — 2007 Farm Bill

At an hour-and-a-half press conference this morning, House Agriculture Committee members, perhaps sensitive to revelations that dead farmers have been receiving huge farm subsidies, defended the 2007 Farm Bill they unanimously approved last week. They stressed that the bill, due to be considered by the full House as early as this Thursday, was a bipartisan effort. That’s true — both Democrats and Republicans on the committee pushed for more pork in their districts.

At the press conference, a parade of Agriculture Committee members downplayed the pork and talked about the nutrition programs, the conservation programs, the energy programs. They also stressed their support for “healthy foods” and said that new subsidies for fruit and vegetable growers would help achieve that.

Tim Mahoney (D-FL) praised his colleagues for their bipartisan work and said the Agriculture Committee is “a committee that puts farmers, ranchers, and growers first.” Even former committee members were brought in to voice their support, such as Marion Berry (D-AR), who said that “all the stakeholders had their say.”

It’s true that all the farmers, ranchers, and growers did have their say, but not a reason for cheering. As usual with farm bills crammed with subsidies — consumers and taxpayers who pay for the bloated farm programs aren’t even considered.

Other committee members talked about the need for a “safety net” for farmers. Rep. Zach Space (D-OH), from what he said was a district of “small family farms,: said that farmers “cannot afford the risks” of farming “without the safety net.”

Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), when asked about a possible presidential veto, noted that the Administration’s farm bill proposal, which would have introduced modest reforms, didn’t get a lot of support from farmers around the country. “It was based on ideology, not practicality,” he said, as contrasted with the committee’s bill.

Peterson also charged that Rep. Ron Kind’s (R-WI) bill, which incorporates some reforms, is also “based on ideology.”

It’s expected that numerous amendments will be offered on the House floor; However, Rep. Peterson noted that he may ask for “some kind of limits” on number of amendments allowed.