Digest – House passes a Food and Farm Bill

For those of you who are following the Food and Farm Bill, here's a special thematic digest. With just about every newspaper and agricultural interest group writing something about the House bill, this survey just scratches the husk, so if you know of any especially good articles or blog posts — especially from the Midwest, Great Plains, or Southeast — please leave a comment (remember that the Ethicurean comment system supports links).

Last Friday, the House passed a Food and Farm Bill with 231 in favor, 191 against. Nineteen Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while 14 Democrats voted against it. Thanks to a last-minute tax-adjustment proposal, the vote was a lot closer than most farm bills (in 2002, the House version passed 291-120). The official name of the Food and Farm Bill is the "Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of 2007" and its identifier is H.R. 2419. Ideally, this link will take you directly to the bill's summary page (if it doesn't, visit Thomas at the Library of Congress and search for H.R. 2419). This link might get you the bill in PDF format from the Government Printing Office if you want to look at the legislation in detail.

Now, on to the coverage, grouped as "straightforward reports," "specialized coverage" (e.g., close looks at the political machinations), and "commentary" (a free-for-all).

Wheat harvest in the Polouse Hills - from USDA ARS image galleryStraightforward reports

House Passes Massive Farm Bill, by Dan Morgan (Washington Post)

Farm bill's foes see Senate as next battleground, by Carolyn Lochhead (San Francisco Chronicle)

Facing veto threat, House OKs farm bill, by James Gerstenzang (Los Angeles Times)

House farm bill keeps subsidies Iowa enjoys, by Philip Brasher (Des Moines Register)

House passes farm bill with support of most ag groups, by Peter Shinn (Brownfield)

The "Farm Bill has passed" press release from the House Agriculture Committee

A good roundup from FarmPolicy.com

Michael Doyle, from the Bee's Washington Bureau, plays Q & A with the Food and Farm Bill. (Sacramento Bee

Cotton harvest in Texas from USDA ARS image gallerySpecialized coverage

Dan Morgan surveys the Rube Goldberg-like funding mechanisms required to pass the Food and Farm Bill in the House — and the dangers they pose to final passage of a bill. Some of the interest groups that are angry about by the funding mechanisms, or the lack of substantial reform, include the oil and gas industry, crop insurers, and the Chamber of Commerce. (FarmPolicy.com)

How organic programs fared in the House bill (Chews Wise)

Farm subsidies for the rich in Utah (Salt Lake Tribune)

Views from the livestock industry (Brownfield)

In South Dakota, the so-called "reform" of eliminating payments to those with adjusted gross incomes over $1 million that was touted by the House Ag Committee will affect only 30 out of 32,000 farmers. The Bush administration plan would have affected 823. The South Dakota Farmers Union favors stricter income limits. The South Dakota Farm Bureau, on the other hand, opposes limits, claiming that they will turn farm programs into welfare programs. (Rapid City Journal)

Senate Ag Committee Chair Tom Harkin may reveal legislation next week (Brownfield)

A look at what might happen in the Senate (Congressional Quarterly)

A look at what happened in the Rules Committee during the Food and Farm Bill debate. (Rochester Turning


Dan Owens looks at the legislative mechanics that prevented real reform from coming to a vote, while at the same time allowing farm district representatives to tell their constituents that they got the best deal that was possible. He castigates Agriculture Committee members for not having the courage to demand a vote on payment limits. Owens writes: "What we will not compromise on is the principle that there should be a limit [on farm program payments]. The Farm Bill that passed the United States House of Representatives compromises on this principle. It contains loopholes that ensure the continuation of unlimited farm program payments. In fact, it makes the already pitiful payment limitations in the Farm Bill even weaker. For those who support a Farm Bill without a payment limit, we would like to know how they justify farm programs at all." Go read the whole thing. (Center for Rural Affairs)

The American Farmland Trust likes the House's legislation, sees it as a win for farmers and consumers. (Press Release)

USA Today's editorial board is disappointed by the lack of substantial change. But Rep. Peterson, in an opposing view, says that the bill is good for all Americans.

With a title like "Pelosi's bad farm bill," it's not hard to guess what the Los Angeles Times editorial board thinks. Their editorial goes after the finacial wheeling and dealing ($1.6 billion for specialty crops, $100 million to settle discrimination lawsuits, more food stamp money, etc.), mismanagement ($1.1 billion over seven years paid to dead people) and potential international trouble that it could cause (WTO actions, treaty problems).

The Times is "Still Waiting for Farm Reform." They have faint praise for Pelosi's efforts, but are disappointed with the continuation of subsidy programs. They pin much hope on the Senate, where several reformers are in powerful positions — and are from commodity states (ie Harkin from Iowa; Lugar from Indiana; and Durbin from Illinois). (New York Times)

A view from the U.K., with particular focus on how cotton subsidies hurt African farmers (The Guardian)

The entire Congressional Black Caucus voted in favor of the House Food and Farm Bill. Of special interest to the caucus was the increase in funding for nutrition programs, the settlement of discrimination lawsuits (Pigford v. Glickman), and funding for agricultural programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. (Indy Bay)

Kari Hamerschlag, policy director for the California Coalition for Food and Farming, had an op-ed in the S.F. Chronicle on the day of the vote. She follows the money: "Three cotton farmers in California will receive in one year the entire national budget dedicated to organic research and extension. Five corn growers in the Midwest will receive the equivalent of the annual budget dedicated to supporting farmers' markets. Roughly 13,000 rice and cotton growers in California will receive nearly $1 billion in subsidies over three years while our entire state will receive less than $100 million in conservation support." (San Francisco Chronicle


Image credits: Wheat harvest photo and cotton harvest photo from the USDA ARS Image Gallery.

2 Responsesto “Digest – House passes a Food and Farm Bill”

  1. Janet says:

    Here's another opinion that sneers at the whole farm bill, from the High Plains Journal, which is viewed as having generally Farm Bureau type point of view. The commentary is by Dennis T. Avery, senior fellow, Hudson Institute, Washington, D.C., Director for Center for Global Food Issues. Here's the URL: http://www.hpj.com/archives/2007/jul07/jul30/Whatexcuseforthenewfarmbill.cfm

  2. Expat Chef says:

    Thank you for this. I wrote my senators. Did not get much of a commitment, and a reference to decisions best made "at the local level."

    In the end, I am not waiting for Washington. I will do everything I can to continue to support local farmers and my own family's health in the process. None of us should wait. We're very likely to be disappointed.