Senate Passes Farm Bill

Washington, D.C., December 14, 2007—Yesterday the Senate passed the 2007 farm bill, the first major revision of agricultural policy in five years. "The $286 billion Senate version of the Farm Bill is a good deal for farmers, but a shabby one for taxpayers who foot the bill for this Congressional largesse," said Competitive Enterprise Institute Adjunct Fellow Fran Smith.

Now the House and Senate conferees will get together and resolve their differences. "Those differences are in the details, but the broad scope of both bills continues and even expands the bloated farm support programs begun in the Great Depression," said Smith. "Consumers, taxpayers, and the poor will be the ones paying out of their pockets to swell the coffers of special-interest farmers," she said.

To cut off possible filibusters by Southern Senators, the Senate pulled a parliamentary trick so that each of the 40 amendments allowed to be offered needed 60 votes to win. "That supermajority vote meant that any reform attempt at this late stage was doomed to failure," said Smith.

Even some amendments offering small reforms, for example, to cap the amount of payments a farmer could receive. One of the amendments offered would have limited farm subsidies to $250,000 per year for a married couple, a reduction from the current $360,000 limit. Another would have limited payments to people actively engaged in farming, rather than to long-distance and wealthy owners who receive some hefty farm payments.

Smith said, "The House-Senate conferees have a last chance to fix some of the more egregious problems with both bills. The sugar program would be a prime candidate. Both versions of the Farm Bill would make the program even worse – by increasing the price supports for sugar producers, restricting imports, and even using taxpayer dollars to purchase excess sugar for ethanol production."

"We urge them to stand up for their true constituents – taxpayers and consumers."

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