Sunday, April 27, 2008

Opinion: Should the U.S. Government subsidize what farmers grow even when food prices are at record levels? Is this special interest too powerful?

Negotiations On Farm Bill Add Billions For Nutrition

By Dan MorganSpecial to The Washington Post Saturday, April 26, 2008; Page A03

House and Senate negotiators reached tentative agreement yesterday on a new $290 billion, multiyear farm bill that would add about $10.4 billion for nutrition programs while continuing to channel billions of dollars to farmers, even if prices stay at current record levels.

Key details remain to be worked out, but lawmakers said a final deal could come next week on the bill. The government would spend $10 billion more than allocated by congressional budget committees last year. The Bush administration had proposed an increase of about $5.5 billion.

The current farm bill expired last October but has been extended a number of times.

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) said the agreement would include a new permanent program that guarantees aid to farmers and ranchers suffering weather-related losses, a priority of senators from Western states hit by drought.

Included in the bill is $405 million to be spent over 10 years on the cleanup of farm-related pollution in the Chesapeake Bay. The program, sponsored by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) would help reduce the runoff of nutrients and other pollutants from farms.

The bill would reduce the tax credit for ethanol made from corn to 45 cents per gallon from 51, but the tax credit would be extended through 2010.

Rising food costs gave a strong impetus to stepped-up funding for programs such as food stamps that help poor and near-poor families. Farm bill versions passed by the House and Senate last year proposed modest increases in food stamp benefits and eased standards of eligibility for the program.

Last week, Senate negotiators (CONFERENCE COMMITTEE MEMBERS) offered a $9.5 billion increase over 10 years. Yesterday, they upped that offer by $800 million to $900 million, sources indicated.

The bill also includes a provision that would require the labeling of imported meat and vegetables for the first time, a response to rising concerns about food safety.

Morgan is a contract writer for The Washington Post and a fellow at the German Marshall Fund, a nonpartisan public policy institution.

26 comments:

joannaz said...

I agree with some of this bill but not all of it. Some form of the bill needs to be passed so that farmers can get help due to droughts, ill weather, etc, and reducing pollutants from farm-related activities is important. However, reducing the "tax credit for ethanol made from corn to 45 cents per gallon from 51" is not necessary. It only causes the government to lose more money from something that has been perceived as a much better alternative to gasoline (which it isn't). Ethanol is just as bad for the environment and causes food that could be used to feed countries to fuel cars. How many people starve to death each year and we're putting our money in a fuel alternative that is just as bad for the enviroment as gasoline. I would rather the government keep the bill as it was before or cut some funding and put it towards something like alternative energy or health insurance. Or we could just stop spending billions overseas. That would work too.

Vlad said...

Joanna made several noteworthy points, all of which I agree with. With all of the problems in our environment, it has become a scary time because its almost impossible to reverse all the bad that we have done. The government should definitely help the farmers because its getting harder to grow crips. But we need to do something to help stop global warming, and if you don't believe in global warming, then do something beneficial for the environment. For example, I have reduced my meat intake in my daily diet. I try to alternate eating meat every other day. Also, I don't drive anywhere unless I really need to. Also, not global warming realted, when I dispose my gum, I first place it back into its wrapper or into a piece of paper so as to make sure no bird or other animal chokes on it.

arletap said...

What a fantastic plan! The agriculture interest groups will be sitting high and mighty with more money than they could ever hope for, growing less crops than before, while record level prices create an ever-growing number of people who can't afford to feed their families. That's why more people on food stamps is the answer! Why pay for your food, especially when it's this expensive? Isn't that why people pay taxes? I guess it's for the best that the food grown here just gets exported anyway. That would just be silly if we fed our own starving nation.

And I'm glad farmers are being paid $405 million to clean up Chesapeake Bay. Thankfully, farmers don't need to worry about using their own money to take care of their pesticide-mania. That's the government's job.

Mr. Bretzmann said...

Sardonic, sarcastic cynicism drips from these comments...

KellyH said...

I do agree with many parts of the bill and the government giving money to most agricultural interest groups. I don't think they are too powerful, with the exception of those that are pushing for tax credits and anything ethanol related.

But I think it's about time people start caring about farmers again. My uncle still owns a farm right on Crowbar, and he and most other farmers have been struggling for years without people paying much attention to them. No, ethanol is not good as a fuel and yes it most definately is taking away from needed food supplies, but it's finally bringing attention to a group of people who have, just as always, been working hard just to make ends meet.

When pesticides were first used after WWII, people had no money, but guess who sponsored pesticide use in the first place? That's right. The federal government did.
They wanted increased food production around the world, so obviously farmers wanted to use them. Hopefully they would make more crops, and finally not have kill themselves to support their families. The government and the EPA didn't even start tracking the bad effects of pesticides until 1985. People used what worked, and that was pesticides. So why should farmers have to pay to clean up a mess the government sponsored in the first place?

Also, farmers aren't trying to grow less crops. There have obviously been droughts and other weather problems that affected that, but one reason why there are less crops is that there is less land to farm on because there are so many houses and suburbs eating away at the land. Also, food prices are at a record high, but if the crop prices are high, so are seed prices. They have to balance how much the sell with how much is used as seed, and that's not easy to do when the world is starving but without seed you can't make a living or more food for the next year. Also, not all farmers export their food.

I don't know about anyone else's feelings on this, but maybe we need to stop blaming farmers and start realizing that there are a lot more people to blame. We could take all the country clubs and use the acres devoted to golf courses as farm land. Maybe CEOs of oil companies could donate some of their salary to people who can't afford food, or to people developing fuel from algae. Obviously that's not going to happen, but I think people need to start thinking up solutions and maybe something will finally happen.

KellyH said...

I'm sorry by the way if I strayed a little from the question, I just feel really strongly about this.

JamieW said...

I'm really thankful for people like Arleta who turn my AP English Lit misery into AP Gov happiness. Even though I still have to make up that test and quiz tomorrow.

ANYWAYS

I think this bill has its pros and cons. I don't really think the amount of money should be spent trying to reverse problems that have already occured. Lets do something in terms of prevention.

That reminds me,
I was shopping yesterday and saw this bracelet that was made out of wooden beads and with a little wooden charm on it that said Plastic with a big line through it. I wanted so badly to buy one for everyone in 6th hour (thanks to Shannon we're now going green!) Unforunately due to the U.S's failing economy, gas prices are FAR too high and I couldn't afford the 6.00 bracelets. Sorry guys :-(

Johnny B said...

I feel that farmers are overlooked too often. Their jobs are tough and vital. I think it's good that the bill supports farmers even in times of ill weather such as drought. But overall, it sounds like the bill is filled with a lot of things. So, I agree that they should get some benefits, but maybe the bill is going a litttttttttle overboard.

cmorgan said...

It seems as if the farmers are finally getting some attention. Their business is very susceptible to natural disasters so this bill will be helpful in case of these occurances. On the otherhand the bill does go a little overboard on many of its other aspects. I believe the bill has good intentions but should be toned down a couple notches.

CoreyA said...

Capitalism any one? Survival of the fittest? Lassiez Faire? Let people work out their own problems and stay out of it? Any one?

Why am I paying someone extra money for a job that they'd do on their own for less?

If you really are starving, you should go to the dollar menu and get yourself a Double-Cheese Burger. Or you can buy corn and pay record prices.

... Or get a job...

Or two, like me.

I can afford corn...

Good talk. Have a nice day.

katiekso said...

Personally I'm not sure I understands all the reasoning behind this bill. I believe that this money should be put towards those farms with environmantal damage but I don't see why we are spending so much when food prices are at record highs. Maybe that money could be better spent towards those too poor to afford food, even McDonalds.

Tom B. said...

Hey, a double cheeseburger is a quality meal; I don’t care what any of you say. Anyways I think that farmers need some help every now and then. It’s a tough job; I’ve bailed hey once it was terrible. And by the way C Morgan, can’t even tell you reworded Johnny B’s comment at all.

Erica t said...

I think part of the bill makes sense. At least something is being done. I agree with a lot of Leta's comments... or remarks, I guess. Maybe we're not exactly going about it the right way but I am glad farmers are getting the attention they need to take care of a few things. I did donate to the charity fund at Whole Foods a few times that went to help out farmers who had suffered from both flooding and drought.
I guess all in all, I'm just happy to see some enviromental action being taken, even if it's not going to benefit our hungry people right away. On the bright side, maybe this is an early step in the right direction of getting those prices back to a more reasonable level once we can get our agriculture back on track?

aly mac said...

I don't think that it is a terrible idea to help farmers in times of droughts and bad weather. Providing them with an extra sum of money may help eventually lower some of the costs if they can get back on their feet and recover faster. In addition, I think that it is well worth the money to reduce pollutants from farm related activities. The idea of reducing the tax credit for ethanol I don't believe is necessary.

Alex D said...

Sure farming is hard enough, I guess paying for some of their crops that can be due to bad weather ext is a good idea, but only for those reasons. This bill however goes way overboard, most of it is very unnecessary. I would go on but instead I will direct you to Corey's post.

As for the food prices I think that if America stop wasted its time of the joke of Biofuels that we are currently invested in, then the price of corn and other food would go down.

As to Vlad's comments...

I also don't see how reducing my meat intake reduces global warming. Driving is a good idea in practice, but everything I do is so far away, and I figure if a bird is going to choke on my gum it could have chocked on just about anything else on the ground. Furthermore, wouldn't wrapping my gum in a separate sheet of paper waste trees, furthering global warming. Also, if the bird dies, wouldn't it stop CO2 production, and also stop eating O2 emitting plants, helping to reverse global warming.

Just some food for thought... pun intended

jamieg said...

Alex, you're kind of cynical yourself. And not eating meat saves plenty of energy.
Anyway, I think pretty much what everybody else thinks: that protection for farmers is important but most of the other things on this bill go way overboard.
And as far as the whole capitalism thing goes: it's kind of essential to help farmers stay on our feet. The less trouble the farmers have, the less food will cost (theoretically), and the more trouble they have, the more farms will close and the cost of food will rise. So it's not actually just a capitalism thing.

jamieg said...

Our feet? I meant their feet.

Alex D said...

yeah, i meant to say not driving too, which is a good but impossible idea.

unless of course I had Al Gore's private jet/helicopter

ps.
who knows what else that man has to destroy the environment, I wouldn't be surprised to see him driving down the street in a gas powered segway

Vlad said...

For the meat, I quote from an environmentalist magazine,
"Each pound of steak from feedlot-raised steers that you eat comes at the cost of 5 pounds of grain, 2,500 gallons of water, the energy equivalent of a gallon of gasoline, and about twenty-five pounds of eroded topsoil. "

Anywayz, lemme get to back 2 sippin' my Haterade, y'all.

KellyH said...

Corey if you think about it, the buns you eat at Micky D's are (should) be made of wheat, which has also increased in price quite a bit.

So your practice of buying from the dollar menu only lasts as long as they can keep their prices down.

Just my thoughts on that.

Oh and Mr. Bretzmann, I forgot to tell you that at the end of my dental adventure my dentist also equated "the Spanish immigrants" with the "people who brought heroin and the 'War on Drugs' into our suburbs". Thankfully she was flossing my teeth at the time. Had I been gargling flouride I might have choked.

Angelina said...

I totally agree with Joanna's comment. I also think that something should be passed to help farmer's in times of drought, floods, and other bad weather.

BrookeS said...

I have the chart from the board in class today as a typed document in word. If anyone wants it, leave your e-mail and I'll send it to you. 4 DAYS LEFT!!!!!!!AHHHHHHHH

CoreyA said...

Well, as far as wheat("wheat") prices are concerned, I can't picture the dollar menu sky rocketing too badly. Not claiming to be Nostradamus or anything, but I have to admit that the dollar menu getting much higher then the "two dollar menu"(God forbid!) (oh, sorry libs. 'higher being that may or may not exsist depending how you feel') of the future any time soon seems rather impracticable. Even so, with the exception of people who are literally mentally disabled and who I really can't hold to the same standards(ethically my conscience would never let me) I do not know of any person that could literally starve to death in our country. "Some places are worse off", yeah I get it, and I sympathize... to an extent. You are not being held in one place by any legal means, you aren't serfs. You can find jobs, you can find an apartment, a MCDONALDS. "Its not that easy Corey", yeah, I know. But if you are starving, you'll find a way. Trust me.

Hey, if wheat is like oil, we can always invade some country for it... Any one know where I can find wheat? Iraq? Iran?... We're going there soon anyway... Once McCain comes in.

Alex D said...

Corey...

Ironically it appears France is the next biggest wheat exporter... although I can't think that that would be much of an invasion ;)

http://www.fas.usda.gov/wap/circular/1998/98-05/wheat.pdf

tomj said...

This has nothing to do with this subject, but is it really McCain against Clinton? Now I'll really be depressed if McCain loses if this is the truth.

Mr. Bretzmann said...

Can we invade Iowa too and take the corn? I'd be for that.