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Food, Conservation, and Energy Security Act of 2008--Veto Message from the President of the United States

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


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

Mr. Speaker, we do need a farm bill. It's planting season throughout the country. The farm economy is crucial in regards to the health and well-being of our Nation. It's an integral part of the economic well-being of my home State in Wisconsin. But I always believed that we should have the right type of farm bill, not the wrong type of farm bill before us today.

Merely because the President is not the most popular person in the country today doesn't mean that he is always wrong. I think he is right when he is sending back a veto message telling the Congress today: We can do better. We should do better. We ought not be giving large taxpayer subsidies to wealthy individuals at a time of record commodity prices.

The modicum of reform that is being hailed under the commodity title is barely the illusion of reform. In fact, if you look at the three main subsidy programs that still exist and still continue on this farm bill, the loan deficiency program, the countercyclical, and the direct payment all of them are going up, in practice. They are increasing the loan rates under the LDP program, increasing the target price under the countercyclical, they are expanding the maximum amount allotted under the direct payments from $40,000 to $45,000.

While the gentleman from Virginia is correct that there is a little tightening of the adjusted gross payment limit to farm entities, it doesn't come anywhere close to the type of reform that is eminently justifiable in light of farm income and debt to asset ratio.

By the time you allow two entities on the same farm to qualify for these same direct payments, you can have a farm entity with an adjusted gross income of up to $2.5 million still receiving taxpayer subsidies. What does this mean in regards to production agriculture? It means that based on last year's schedule F tax returns that farmers file to report their income, these so-called reforms under the commodity title might affect two-tenths of 1 percent of producers around the country today. Hardly the type of reform that we should be talking about. Hardly the justification that we can take home and tell the taxpayers that we are doing right by them.

I believed from the beginning that we can still have a farm bill that maintains an important safety net for family farmers throughout the country in case the bottom drops out, in case they run into hard times. And we know how cyclical farm economy is. We can find savings under those subsidy programs through the reforms that are justifiable to have a strong conservation title coming out of this, strong nutrition title, research and marketing for specialty crops, and having a strong rural economic development program, not to mention the energy title that was alluded to.

In talking to one of my colleagues earlier this afternoon, he says he is reminded by an old Clint Eastwood film: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. There's plenty of good that you can point to in this farm bill. Certainly the increase in nutrition is justifiable in light of rising costs and eligibility and to combat hunger that is rising throughout the country.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman from Wisconsin has expired.

Mr. KIND. I yield myself 1 additional minute.

The bad is the fact that last year when we passed the farm bill out, they were talking about an increase of $5.7 billion of funding under the conservation title. Today, coming back, it's less than a $4 billion increase.

Why is this important? It's important because the increase of commodity prices, there's great pressure on sensitive lands to bring them back into production, and that means it's going to affect wildlife habitat, highly erodible land with sediment and nutrient flows flowing off and contaminating our water and drinking supply. We are seeing already that CRP enrollment is dropping because farmers are choosing to take that out of CRP and putting it back into production. Instead of recognizing market forces and having the strongest possible conservation title, that was one area where they went for further savings in order to protect these large subsidies.

Finally, the Washington Post reported in an article today, Farm Bill Subsidy Costs May Rise. Billions More Could Be Paid Through Little-Notice Provisions. This is that new revenue-based countercyclical program the gentleman from Virginia just alluded to.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The time of the gentleman from Wisconsin has again expired.

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

This is based on a 2-year rolling average of commodity prices rather than 5 years that the administration was proposing. But even 2 years ago, commodity prices were at or near record lows. What this means is that it will take very little for the prices to drop today for this program to get triggered and for tens of billions of dollars to be flowing out in further subsidy programs because of the way this is structured, and that is wrong. And we should be more honest, not only with the Members of this Congress of how it's going to work, but with the American taxpayer.

One farm economist called this new ACRE program, and I quote, ``lucrative beyond expectations.'' That is what has been created. So instead of reform, we are heading in the opposite direction.

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