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House overrides Bush farm bill veto

Agriculture.com Staff 05/21/2008 @ 6:42pm

By a vote of 316 to 108, the House voted Wednesday afternoon to override President Bush's veto of the farm bill earlier in the day. The vote was just two short of last week's approval of the bill in the House and more than the 290 needed for a two-thirds majority.

The Senate, which passed the bill last week by an even bigger 81-15 vote majority, is expected to vote on overriding the veto Thursday morning.

But the vote wasn't free of problems. House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN) said that the trade title of the farm bill wasn't included in the copy of the bill that the President vetoed. House minority leader John Boehner of Ohio, who opposed the farm bill, said that voting on the veto of an incomplete bill raises constitutional issues.

Opponents to the farm bill, led by Representative Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Representative Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican, made one last attempt to convince the House that the President's veto should be sustained.

"Merely because the President is not the most popular person in the country today doesn't mean he is always wrong," said Kind.

Kind said that the farm bill's changes in eligibility for commodity program payments are "barely the illusion of reform."

A farm couple could have $1.5 million in farm income and another $1 million in off-farm income before losing any payments, he said. Those changes might affect two-tenths of one percent of the producers in the U.S., he said.

With greater reform in program payments, the farm bill would have had more money for conservation, which Kind said is needed as the nation ramps up crop production to meet demand for biofuels.

Flake, a fiscal conservative, said that next year, it's possible that corn farmers could get a price of $4.25 per bushel and receive payments under the new Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) program.

"That's farming the taxpayers rather than the land," Flake said.

Later in the debate Flake said that he wished members of his Republican party "would stand up and say that anybody who believes in limited government can't support a bill like this."

But his fellow Republican, Bob Goodlatte, the ranking member of the House Agriculture Committee, said that the final bill cost less than either the original House or Senate bills passed last year and that the bill tried to move in the direction of the Bush administration's original proposal for farm legislation by adopting a lower gross taxable income standard for receiving commodity program payments, by reforming crop insurance programs and by offering programs for beginning farmers.

Peterson said that only 15% of some $300 billion in the five-year farm bill is expected to go to farmers and 73.5% will go to nutrition programs. Another seven percent will go to conservation programs.

Representative Earl Pomeroy, a North Dakota Democrat who is a member of both the Agriculture and Ways and Means Committees, countered the critics with examples of improvements over the 2002 farm bill, including much less spent on commodity programs, increases in conservation spending and a better safety net for family farmers who are facing high costs for diesel fuel and fertilizer.

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