The U.S. Senate approved the farm bill today. The bill is now off to the President for an expected veto, but there appear to be enough Congressional votes to override the veto.
What do the candidates think of it? Well, neither McCain nor Obama was there for today's vote, but here is what they have said on the issue:
-- From McCain:
"I have to give you a little straight talk about the farm bill that is wending its way through Congress," McCain said Thursday at the Polk County Convention Center in Des Moines. "I do not support it. I would veto it," he said. "I would do that because I believe that the subsidies are unnecessary."
I was disappointed to see that important improvements and solutions for our family farmers in this bill fell victim to partisan politics and obstructionism. Those who stood in the way of this bill stood against our farmers and a clean energy future. While the bill that passed committee didn't include everything I would have liked, including specific reforms to help family farmers instead of big agribusiness, it did take much-needed steps to invest in conservation, nutrition, specialty crops and rural development. It provided funding for renewable energy and recognized farmers who are working to reduce our dependence on foreign oil. And it included a packer ban, which is so important for market transparency.
More on what's in the bill here: http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5hKiCUGVmDQJYT51475bq5PwW3aXwD90LMH2G0
ADDED: I spoke too soon. Here is an Obama press release from today:
"I applaud the Senate's passage today of the Farm Bill, which will provide America's hard-working farmers and ranchers with more support and more predictability."
"The bill places greater resources into renewable energy and conservation. And, during this time of rising food prices, the Farm Bill provides an additional $10 billion for critical nutrition programs. I am also pleased that the bill includes my proposal to help thousands of African-American farmers get their discrimination claims reviewed under the Pigford settlement."
"This bill is far from perfect. I believe in tighter payment limits and a ban on packer ownership of livestock. As president, I will continue to fight for the interests of America's family farmers and ranchers and ensure that assistance is geared towards those producers who truly need them, instead of large agribusinesses. But with so much at stake, we cannot make the perfect the enemy of the good."
"By opposing the bill, President Bush and John McCain are saying no to America's farmers and ranchers, no to energy independence, no to the environment, and no to millions of hungry people."
ADDED #2: And more from McCain:
“The American taxpayer has been told before that Farm Bills and their thirst for subsidies were a necessary evil to provide our county—and the world—with affordable, abundant food. Today, as food prices reach historic highs, they’re being told the same thing. We must challenge that notion as grocery bills soar, food banks go bare, and food rationing occurs on a global scale. We must question policies that divert over 25 percent of corn out of the food supply and into subsidized ethanol production. Do Americans really want a support system that costs consumers $2 billion annually in higher sugar prices? Will we truly reduce our dependency on foreign oil by extending tariffs that make it too expensive to invest in sugar ethanol production? Can we honestly demand fair and free trade at Doha while domestic cotton growers dump subsidized cotton on the world market?
“The Farm Bill conference report is expected to cost taxpayers around $289 billion dollars. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this bill will exceed the government’s budget by $10 billion. But the Administration points out that with clever accounting made famous by Congressional budget dodgers, the real cost of the bill will exceed the government’s budget by about $18 billion. And even though Democrats and Republicans in both chambers have promised to rein in pork barrel spending, this bill betrays that promise. Buried within its hundreds of pages are special favors like:
§ $170 million dollar bailout for the West Coast salmon industry included at the insistence of the Speaker of the House.
§ $93 million in special tax treatment for race horses.
$260 million in tax cuts for the timber industry.
§ $15 million for asparagus growers. During debate on the Senate farm bill last year, my colleague Senator Gregg offered an amendment, which failed, to strike this provision. This is a crop that has never before received farm subsidies.
§ $175 million would be transferred to Bureau of Reclamation for activities at three Nevada lakes.
§ $500,000 to the Walker River Paiute Tribe for legal and professional services in support of settling tribal water claims. Other tribes have dealt with water rights without a half million dollar earmark.
§ $5 million for joint planning and development activities for water, wastewater, and sewer facilities by the city of Fernley, Nevada, and the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe.
§ The bill authorizes a myriad of grant programs including grants for research into pig genetics, grants for the preservation of historic barns, and $300 million for the Sun Grant Program, which provides grants to 6 universities and science centers that conduct bioenergy research.
§ $20 million goes to the collection and storage of seeds for research purposes.
§ $75 million for a crop research facility in El Reno, Oklahoma.
§ $35 million to promote the production of “hard white wheat.”
§ A $4 billion dollar disaster assistance package on top of an existing crop insurance program that’s subsidized by the federal government.