We thought we were finally done with the farm bill after months and months of “negotiations,”  but we spoke too soon.  Apparently the House yesterday overruled a different version of the farm bill than the President signed, meaning that we’re back at the beginning.  Well, almost the beginning. This is just one more step to prove that the Bush Administration is pure evil.

I don’t think I have to remind anyone that an estimated 35.5 million Americans are food insecure; meaning their access to enough food is limited by a lack of money and other resources.  (USDA/ERS, Household Food Security in the United States: 2006).  Food Banks all over the country have been urging that the farm bill needs to be passed and put into place. 

Yesterday in a press release, America’s Second Harvest, the country’s largest food bank distributor commended the House for overruling the President’s veto.

“Demands are up, and food is down,” said Vicki Escarra, President of America’s Second Harvest. “This is one of the worst times that our food banks have experienced in recent years in terms of the level of need and our ability to meet the need. At the same time, food stamp benefits are eroding and food and fuel prices continue to soar.”

Food banks nationwide have experienced a dramatic decline of nearly $200 million in food donations from the USDA surplus commodity program in recent years as a result of a strong agriculture economy. The Farm Bill, which has been debated for months in Congress, would bring much needed immediate relief to this dire situation facing the nation’s charitable distribution Network by replenishing record low levels of food inventories at food banks and significantly improving food stamp benefits. It would increase the amount of mandatory funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) from $140 million a year to $250 million a year and index the amount for inflation. (May 21 Press Release)

 

So after reading what the farm bill could do to immediately help the hunger situation, read this….

 

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House overwhelmingly rejected President Bush’s veto of a $290 billion farm bill Wednesday, but what was to have been a stinging defeat for the president became an embarrassing episode for Democrats.

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The House will try to pass a $290 billion farm bill again Thursday after a mixup the day before.

Only hours before the House’s 316-108 vote, Bush had vetoed the five-year measure, saying it was too expensive and gave too much money to wealthy farmers when farm incomes are high. The Senate then was expected to follow suit quickly.

Action stalled, however, after the discovery that Congress had omitted a 34-page section of the bill when lawmakers sent the massive measure to the White House. That means Bush vetoed a different bill from the one Congress passed, leaving leaders scrambling to figure out whether it could become law.

Democrats hoped to pass the entire bill, again, on Thursday under expedited rules usually reserved for unopposed legislation. Lawmakers also probably will have to pass an extension of current farm law, which expires Friday.

“We will have to repass the whole thing, as will the Senate,” said Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-N.Y. “We can’t let the farm bill just die.”

Republican leaders called for a farm bill do-over. The White House, almost gleefully, seized on the fumble and said the mixup could give Congress time to fix the “bloated” bill.

“We are trying to understand the ramifications of this congressional farm bill foul-up. We haven’t found a precedent for a congressional blunder of this magnitude,” said Scott Stanzel, a White House spokesman. “It looks like it may be back to square one for them.”

“In all likelihood, you have to redo this process,” said Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 2 Republican and one of the 100 GOP lawmakers who broke with Bush in voting to override the veto. “I’d like to see a farm bill passed that no judge can say is not the farm bill.”

About two-thirds of the bill would pay for nutrition programs such as food stamps, about $40 billion is for farm subsidies, and $30 billion would go to farmers to idle their land and to other environmental programs.

Congressional Republicans overwhelmingly abandoned Bush in voting to pass the bill last week. They overlooking its cost amid public concern about the weak economy and high gas and grocery prices. Supporters praised the spending on food stamps and emergency food aid.

Before the problem with the bill was discovered, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said the bill could make the situation worse for struggling families.

“Members are going to have to think about how they will explain these votes back in their districts at a time when prices are on the rise,” she said. “People are not going to want to see their taxes increase.”

Wednesday’s snag stemmed from an error made while printing the legislation on parchment before sending it to Bush.

Democratic Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader, said the section in question — which deals with trade and international food aid programs — was never printed. Indeed, the final 628-page version of the bill jumps straight from “Title II” on conservation programs to “Title IV” on nutrition programs.

Democrats proposed bringing up and passing the missing section separately and sending that to Bush, thus allowing the entire measure to become law. But Republicans argued that might not be constitutional because Bush actually vetoed a version that Congress never considered.

The bill would make small cuts to direct payments, which are distributed to some farmers no matter how much they grow. It also would eliminate some payments to individuals with more than $750,000 in annual farm income or married farmers who make more than $1.5 million.

Previously, negotiators were considering a $950,000 income cap for individuals on farm income.

Individuals who make more than $500,000 or couples who make more than $1 million jointly in nonfarm income also would not be eligible for subsidies.

Under current law, there is no income limit for farmers, and married couples who make less than one-fourth of their income from farming will not receive subsidies if their joint income exceeds $5 million.

The administration originally proposed a cap for those who make more than $200,000 in annual gross income but later indicated that it could accept a limit of $500,000.

The bill also would:

  • Boost nutrition programs, including food stamps and emergency domestic food aid by more than $10 billion over 10 years. It would expand a program to provide fresh fruits and vegetables to schoolchildren.
  • Increase subsidies for certain crops, including fruits and vegetables excluded from previous farm bills.
  • Extend dairy programs.
  • Increase loan rates for sugar producers.
  • Urge the government to buy surplus sugar and sell it to ethanol producers for use in a mixture with corn.
  • Cut a per-gallon ethanol tax credit for refiners from 51 cents to 45 cents. The credit supports the blending of fuel with the corn-based additive. More money would go to cellulosic ethanol, made from plant matter.
  • Require that meats and other fresh foods carry labels with their countries of origin.
  • Stop allowing farmers to collect subsidies for multiple farm businesses.
  • Reopen a major discrimination case against the Agriculture Department. Thousands of black farmers who missed a deadline would get a chance to file claims alleging that they were denied loans or other subsidies.
  • Pay farmers for weather-related farm losses from a new $3.8 billion disaster relief fund.
  • CNN Politics, May 21, 2008

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