Wednesday, November 14, 2018
 Farm Bill Veto Set to Prolong Uncertainty - Nutra Ingredients  

By Jess Halliday
President Bush is expected to veto the Farm Bill today on the grounds that it would grant subsidies to wealthy farmers at a time when grocery bills are rising - although his decision could be overridden.
The controversial Farm Bill, which would replace expiring legislation dating from the Great Depression era, was passed by the Senate last week. The overall cost of the five-year bill would reach a hefty $289bn.

But White House aids have signalled that Bush is disappointed with the final form and will not grace it with his signature when it arrives on his desk.

"We see a bill that is bloated; that asks taxpayers, at a time of record-high farm income, to pay - and at a time when they're paying more for groceries, to pay even more to wealthy farmers. And we don't think that's the right approach," said spokesperson Scott Stanzel Monday. 

"The President wanted a bill that would reform our farm laws for the future, that would make wise use of taxpayers' money, that wouldn't increase subsidies at a time of record-high incomes.

"There are some things in this bill that are just unconscionable."

The expected veto could prolong the uncertainty over a vital piece of legislation for the agricultural and food sector. Already on May 18 Bush extended the deadline for the expiration of the old Farm Bill by one week to allow time for voting procedures.

This was the latest in a long line of extensions since 2007; another extension of up to one year for the bill to be redrawn could be necessitated by a veto.

However a further twist in the bill's destiny is that farm leaders assert a Bush veto could be over-ridden. This could come about by the House, Senate and Congress each calling a new vote, with a resulting two thirds majority in favour of enactment.

The Senate vote passed by 81-15, way in excess of the required two-thirds.

The question of subsidies aside, the bill does contain some elements that its supporters draw upon as providing benefit for tax payers and the American people.

For instance, it would increase funding for nutrition programs like food stamps, which could be to the benefit of sectors of the population most likely to suffer as a result of rising food prices on retailers' shelves.

While urban representatives have tended to advocate the nutrition program aspects of the bill, rural representatives have sought to look after the interests of large-scale farmers.

Land stewardship and biofuels development would also benefit from additional funding. Biofuels are cited as one of the reasons for rising agricultural commodity prices, but the US is spearheading research into second generation biofuels, which would draw on waste cellulose material instead of diverting grain supplies from food.

It is the long reach of the bill, which covers a whole gamut of different food related topics, that is expected by some commentators to act in its favor in a veto-overturning vote.

Some have said it is a piece of legislation that would go so far as to change the way American people eat, for the healthy better.

It has also been that reducing subsidies to farms, Bush's particular bug bear, would not bring about a ready decrease in food prices.

As Bush's second presidential term ends this year, so if he does not sign the farm bill now it would be down to his successor.

John McCain, presumed Republican candidate for the top job, indicated in a speech Monday that he, too, would veto the bill in its current form were he in Bush's shoes.

He indicated that over-the-top subsidies to US farmers would obstruct negotiations to remove trade barriers and unfair subsidies in other countries.

The US position on agriculture has been cited as a block to conclusion of the Doha trade round, for instance, which is intended to benefit developing countries.

Democrat candidate wannabes Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have applauded the Senate's passing of the bill and called in Bush to sign it, according to a Reuters report.

Posted on Friday, May 23, 2008 (Archive on Friday, May 30, 2008)
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