Administration threats and predictions of a 2007 Farm Bill veto are now facts. President Bush will veto the 2007 farm bill, according to USDA Secretary Ed Schafer.
"I have visited face to face with our President and he was direct and plain. The President will veto this bill," Schafer said in a statement, just hours after House and Senate conferees held a news conference to announce completion of the bill. Schafer said the upcoming veto is a result of the bills failure to include the reform sought by Bush. The ill-fated bill also would increase spending by nearly $20 billion.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) was quick to respond to Schafer’s prediction. "Like any compromise bill resulting from hard bargaining among regional and other interests, this farm bill is far from perfect. But no piece of legislation is perfect. It includes significant reforms, as well as these major advances. It deserves the President's signature."
The reform Bush seeks is largely centered around farm subsidies. The White House seeks to end subsidies to farmers who have adjusted gross incomes in excess of $200,000 but might be willing to accept a $500,000 limit. Negotiators in Congress want to have a top end income limit of $750,000 for those receiving subsidies.
Last year, corn growers got $2.1 billion in subsidies, even while corn prices have risen over 160% since the 2002 farm bill passed. Under current law, 93 percent of federal subsidies go to corn, wheat, cotton, soybeans and rice.
New ethanol mandates approved in 2007 have helped lead to corn’s rapid price escalation. About one-fourth of the U.S. corn crop now goes for ethanol production. Meanwhile, the National Corn Growers Association has praised the seemingly dead-on-arrival farm bill calling it “carefully balanced legislation with some very positive reforms.”