Top agriculture official hits Senate farm bill

In a tele-news conference yesterday on the Senate farm bill, the acting U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary, Chuck Conner, said that he would recommend a veto of the bill. Conner spoke in particularly harsh terms about the costs of the bill, which represents a new tax burden of about $37 billion. He also criticized the way the Senate bill disguises the true cost:

If they were to continue the funding for these programs, since the expectation is clearly that the programs will continue, the cost of the farm bill increases by $12 billion. I do not accept that this is just the way business is done in Washington. Business as usual is unacceptable if it means being dishonest with the American people about the tax dollars we are spending. Simple, honest accounting is all we are asking for.

Conner also noted that many farm subsidy programs are unfair and ask taxpayers to fund rich farmers:

Regarding the increase in taxes, the Finance Committee bill which will be married with the farm bill raises nearly $15 billion in new taxes to pay for new programs. We don’t believe other sectors should be asked to pay additional taxes for farm programs, especially when the current bill continues providing farm subsidies to millionaires living on Park Avenue.

I will just tell you, as the Secretary of Agriculture I am very troubled at this notion that somehow to pass a good farm bill that we have to go ask other sectors of our economy to pony up more money. This is a bad precedent for farm bills. Passing a farm bill is a very, very difficult thing to do. When we now have the day where farm bills require us to go and ask others to dig more deeply into their pockets, to ask taxpayers to dig more deeply into their pockets, that’s going to make passing future farm bills very, very difficult. I might even say it probably jeopardizes future farm bills.

The Senate began consideration of its bill yesterday. The House passed its version, H.R. 2419, this summer. Check out CEI’s video — “Farming for dollars: how farm subsidies harm consumers, taxpayers and the poor.”