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Conference Report on H.R. 2419, Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC


CONFERENCE REPORT ON H.R. 2419, FOOD, CONSERVATION, AND ENERGY ACT OF 2008 -- (House of Representatives - May 14, 2008)

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Mr. KIND. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself 3 minutes.

Mr. Speaker, it's planting season back home in Wisconsin. I still represent one of the largest agricultural producing districts in the entire Nation. Our farmers need a new farm bill. They need to know what the rules are that they have to work and live under.

But we need to do a farm bill the right way, not the wrong way, one that maintains an important safety net for family farmers across the country and is also responsible to the American taxpayer.

Unfortunately, I kind of feel like Paul Harvey here in the well today about to give the rest of the story. This farm bill could be summed up in simple words, it's a missed opportunity. In fact, it could be summarized by the phrase: Where's the beef? Where's the real reform?

Why do I say that? Let's take a look for a second at the so-called reforms under the commodity subsidy programs. By the time you include off-farm and on-farm income and allow double entities, dual entities on the same farm, and their adjusted gross income, you have adjusted gross income up to $2.5 million and you still qualify for taxpayer subsidies. That would constitute approximately two-tenths of 1 percent of farm entities throughout the country that might be affected by these so-called reforms under the direct payments.

Now let's remind ourselves, these direct payments are $25 billion, that go out over the next 5 years, regardless of price, regardless of production. It's not a safety net. It's an entitlement program that each and every one of us will have to go home and look our taxpayers in the eyes and try to explain to them why some of their tax dollars are going to go to a farm entity with an adjusted gross income of $2.5 million.

[Time: 14:15]

If you look at the loan deficiency program and the countercyclical, the two other subsidy programs that currently exist, we went in the wrong direction rather than the right direction with reform.

There will still be allowed double dipping under the loan deficiency program. And the loan rates are being increased rather than decreased. And under the countercyclical, the target prices are going to be increased. What does that mean? It means that they will be triggered much earlier and will cost the taxpayer much more if prices start to decline.

One of the reasons there is less funding under the commodity title is because we're at a record time of commodity prices throughout the country. In fact, since the last time the farm bill was on the floor last year for consideration, you look at the five major commodity titles, and they have gone up tremendously since that time: Wheat, an additional 126 percent; soybeans up 57 percent; corn up 45 percent; cotton, 32 percent; and rice, 31 percent. Those are the main subsidized crops that we have throughout the country. Yet, instead of going forward with some reasonable and imminently justifiable reform to tighten up these programs so it is more justifiable to the taxpayer, they're going in the opposite direction.

I always believed that we had the capability, in light of current market prices, to produce a farm bill that maintains an important safety net for our family farmers but in a way that's less market and less trade distorting and is also justifiable to the American taxpayer.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The gentleman's time has expired.

Mr. KIND. I yield myself an additional 30 seconds.

Unfortunately, this farm bill falls short on that worthwhile goal. And unfortunately it's the American taxpayer who is currently facing increased costs of food and fuel that will be paying more over the next 5 to 6 or 7 years by the time we get a chance to look at the next farm bill and talk about the reforms that may be needed.

I led an effort 5 years ago under the last farm bill for some commonsense reforms. People back then said wait for the next one, it's coming. Well, I've been here long enough to understand that tomorrow never comes, and today is the opportunity we have, in light of current market prices, to do the right thing.

I would encourage my colleagues to vote ``no'' on the farm bill.

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