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Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again.... There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H.L. Hunt...a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
--Eisenhower wrote his brother Edgar on May 2, l956, from NCrefugee in the comments

Kind, Blumenauer hope netroots deliver support for new farm bill

Ahem. Let me first say, as unlikely as you may be to believe me by the time you finish reading this, that I like Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). I think they mean well, but a political party cannot survive on good intentions alone. If their version of the Farm Bill, FARM 21 (HR 2720) were to be passed, we're talking Springtime for Hastert in Illinois, winter for New York and Maine.

Therefore, it's time for farm policy without pity.

Remember when Clinton cut the welfare programs, and how cool that was, because it really showed that Democrats could decide to save money on the backs of poor people, too? That was great because impoverished single mothers are some of the least likely voters in the country. So they didn't really do anything about it. And who else were they going to vote for? The Republicans? Please.

Farmers, on the other hand, they vote. Trust me on this. And lots of them live in states with barely the population of Los Angeles, but have two Senators anyway. Why do you think the Republican members of the House Agriculture Committee mentioned preserving the "safety net" for American family farmers so many times during their opening statements on the  Farm Bill (HR 2419) markup that I thought I was listening to Democrats talk about food stamps? (Which the Republicans wanted to cut, as will surprise no one.) Why do you think they didn't try to cut farm subsidies when they controlled all three branches of government? There's no law against altering farm policy more often than every five years.

Because for all that they're venal, corrupt and utterly lacking in compassion, congressional Republicans aren't actually complete sodding morons.

Republicans don't need to be told that placating the WTO, Brazilian cane growers and West African cotton farmers will win them not one, single, solitary vote in farm country come election time. They don't need to be told that American workers, cane and sugar beet growers, and cotton farmers, don't care about placating those people, either. I think, really, we can pretty much agree on the fact that Republicans are deeply in touch with their own self interests.

The Democrats considering whether or not to support FARM 21 might want to allow themselves to be instructed by that example.

With Friends Like These

They should also, just maybe, look at who some of their eager little friends are. First and worst up, the National Taxpayers Union, Grover Norquist's old organization and a beneficiary of Olin and Scaife money. Do you really and truly believe that they're signing on to this out of the depths of their conviction? Frak, no. If they were, they'd have won this fight when George Bush said that he wanted to end all farm subsidies in 2005, when their bestest buddies held the gavels of both chambers of Congress. Why did the people that we all came to know and love as the Rubberstamp Republican Congress not jump to do his bidding? Why were their good friends at the National Taxpayers Union not able to make them see the light. Again, I would argue, because they're not sodding morons.

What the National Taxpayers Union is doing right now is encouraging the Democrats to commit the kind of generational, rural electability suicide that they could never convince their Republican colleagues to sign on to. There couldn't be a better chance for them to gain a policy win and strike back at their enemies from their current position as beggars at the table.

Then there's cosponsor Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA). He's one of the most reliable sheeple votes the Republicans have, a nice smile atop an empty suit, though he occasionally pretends to give a damn about conservation so that his pro-choice constituency has one less gripe at the voting booth. He's from an urban district whose main industries are software, Nordstrom's and rail shipping, and the Republicans there trend towards libertarianism. This is a state, I kid you not, where they have libertarian candidates for insurance commissioner. Let that, as Chris Rock might say, swirl around your head. He couldn't be more insulated from the effects of leaving a trail of devastation all up and down the middle of the country.

Next, we have those cheerful food safety enthusiasts, the Grocery Manufacturers Association. They were sponsors of the National Uniformity for Food Act, which would have put an end to the ability of state and local governments to write stricter food safety laws than the federal government, overturning somewhere around 200 food safety laws around the country. Or hey, like chocolate? They don't. They were also behind a proposed law that would have allowed products containing no cocoa butter to be labeled as chocolate. And their Democratic (!) president and CEO wrote a letter just last week denouncing card check union organizing rules for farmworkers.

Considering that Kind and Blumenauer are all about food safety, or that the Democrats on the House Agriculture Committee unanimously held the line last week to insist that prevailing wage requirements be included in federal loan guarantee contracts for biofuel refineries, I don't know how this Grocery Manufacturers Association is anything but a political albatross.

What then of the socially responsible groups listed? All right, let's go.

Oxfam America really does believe that Congress is going to vote based on African interests. They're not going to, and that's kind of sad, but that hasn't stopped OxFam from tilting at this windmill for years. It's a blindspot that makes the eyes of one former employee of the well-meaning organization just roll heavenwards in despair. Nothing, apparently, can be done to mitigate their intractable political out-of-the-loopness.

What about Environmental Defense? Mmmm, defense. Feel the warm fuzzies. And they've done so much work to try to mitigate hog waste in North Carolina, which is great! Yeah. Except that they're campaigning for more state subsidized production grants for hog farming, a battle they at least partially won, and are now arguing that market-based strategies can work after years of the national chapter lobbying for federally subsidized hog farming.

How subsidized? Through a conservation program, that's how. Environmental Defense is the leading champion for porking up the budget of a program called the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), which was a great program when it mostly helped small, family farms. It still achieves good results, but because of high payment limitations, it's also been used as an unreformed factory farm slush fund. The folks at Environmental Defense haven't complained too much about that. And now that the Farm Bill is out of committee, they don't seem to be railing against the fact that the former $450,000 five year cap has been raised to $625,000 over five years, nearly all of which could be used to subsidize factory farm manure lagoons, if a producer takes the slight dodge of enrolling part of their land in a second conservation program.

Environmental Defense is a good organization that gets a lot done, and they've contributed a lot to the Farm Bill debate. But they just seem a little too willing to overlook the extension of big payouts to big polluters.

A payout of $450,000 over five years, or $625,000 over five years, isn't a conservation grant. It's a production subsidy, of exactly the sort these alleged reformers are trying to eliminate. But somehow, production subsidies for livestock confinement and sewage treatment are less reprehensible to them than production subsidies for corn and barley.

A Plan To Fail

So, fine, I don't approve of their choice of partners. What about the bill? Well.

Let's take the repeal of sugar tariffs. This costs the federal government pretty much nothing. But it's terrible, right, because it increases the costs we have to pay for sugar? Let me ask you something, right after reminding you again that American sugar farmers certainly do vote, and think about it carefully:

Do you see cheaper sugar as being the United States' chief need, just now? With the diabetes, and the heart disease, and the obesity, and the glucose so saturating our food supply that you can give yourself a hypoglycemic fit by inhaling too deeply at the grocery store?

Right! Bring me my even cheaper sugar, pronto!

Next, planting restrictions on subsidized acreage are repealed. Hallelujah. It's not really the best idea to plant only a few types of crops, or especially just one type, on a piece of land. That's Ecology 101. Unfortunately, someone neglected to take certain other basic classes when planning this bill.

Farmers on subsidized acreage may now only grow subsidized commodities for resale, an arrangement that prevents them from competing with growers of unsubsidized fruits and vegetables, also known as specialty crops. For the few years of transition out of subsidies, specialty crop growers would be in constant peril of losing their livelihoods. And you could probably kiss Rep. Sam Farr's, Rep. Joe Baca's, Rep. Dennis Cardoza's and Rep. Jim Costa's Democratic seats in California farming districts a long, sour goodbye.

They also leave the Conservation Security Program unfunded, just like in the latest version of the Farm Bill. This means that a program that already has small payout caps and is targeted towards rewarding sustainable production, instead of helping polluters reform or mitigate bad behavior, is just cancelled for the foreseeable future.

The bill also switches all farmers' marketing loans to recourse loans. During last week's House Agriculture Committee markup of their version of the Farm Bill, Congress members from both parties discussing the listening tours they held throughout the country said that farmers liked three things about the 2002 Farm Bill: direct payments, counter cyclical payments (just, gods, don't ask), and marketing loans.

So, the government used to give farmers non-recourse loans against their crops. That meant that if a farmer couldn't find a buyer for the loan price or higher, they could leave the crop in government storage and wash their hands of it. But then the government is stuck with, say, a few tons of corn. What are they going to do with that? Then someone came up with the idea of marketing loans, where even if the farmer can't find a buyer for the loan price or higher, they sell it for what they can and keep the difference. The government pays out some money, but they didn't have to find a buyer for the corn, continue to pay storage costs, or arrange the transaction. They're done, everybody's happy.

Now suppose you're a member of Congress and you have to go back to the farmers in your district and tell them that, instead of these marketing loans, they'll only have access to loans they have to pay back in full. A recourse loan, which means that their property can be seized against the amount. No one in their right mind takes that trade down without a fight. Particularly not if they're a producer in an industry where, as Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) noted last week, they have to buy everything at retail and sell everything at wholesale, to accept prices at both ends.

And what about the other payments? Just about everything besides conservation and recourse loans gets replaced with a Risk Management Account, which is the farm policy version of healthcare savings accounts. From FARM 21 ally group, Taxpayers for Common Sense:

... A Risk Management Account or RMA allows farmers to weather the ups and downs of agriculture, purchase crop and revenue insurance, invest in rural enterprises that boost farm income, and plan for the future. In particular, account funds could be used in years when a farmer’s income drops below 95% of their average income for the past 5 years.  Some subsidized farmers would receive an annual government contribution to their accounts to build up balances and ease the transition away from traditional subsidies. ...

The Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (pdf) has a different take:

... The proposed alternative to commodity programs, a risk management tax-preferred savings account, would provide tax benefits in proportion to funds invested in the accounts, benefiting the well-off far more than the average farm taxpayer.  Like most tax subsidies, the more disposable income one has available to invest in the tax preference, the larger the benefit.  If a farm family does not have disposable income to invest in any given year, then there is no tax sheltering to be gained.  Unlike commodity payments that at least have the framework for targeting to moderate-sized farms through payment limits, the proposed tax accounts are untargeted.  Most of the tax subsidies will flow to mega-farms.  Moreover, the accounts are tax free in the good years when money is available to the farmer, but taxable in the bad years when the farmer may be making withdrawals, the opposite of what one would think of as a traditional safety net feature. ...

How ... special.

The Opportunity Cost

FARM 21 is likely to have a hard time passing, or even getting close. And thank goodness. Though unfortunately, too many Democrats are probably going to take a vote that, at the very least, won't endear them to rural America. And instead of discussing truly innovative solutions, they'll be pushing some misguided Libertarian People's Front ideas about why government works better when it's dismantled immediately. Or, alternately, insidious neoconservative schemes that would rather add $350 million dollars to a potential corporate slush fund than spend more on efforts with a lot of leverage.

The thing is, I don't especially like farm subsidies. I don't really want to be put in the position of arguing for them. But there isn't a full range of choice here. There's electoral suicide and renewed waves of farm country bankruptcies, or there's the status quo with some moderate but perhaps effective improvements. As I said above, there's no law against reforming farm policy before one Farm Bill is up. Further, appropriators shuffle money around every year, allowing leeway to make the implementation of a bill significantly different than its original framework.

Instead of using up valuable floor time and lobbying effort, here are some proposals that the FARM 21 crowd could have helped out with, instead. They're modest, help small and medium family farms that could suffer under a hard end to subsidies, and provide positive incentives for stable food chain development. Consider:

From the Community Food Security Coalition:

Many of you know about and have benefited from the Community Food Projects (CFP), a program that was started 10 years ago and has been incredibly successful at empowering low-income communities to identify problems related to food security and take action to permanently solve them with an investment from the federal government. In the past, the program has received $5 million annually in mandatory funding, meaning that groups like CFSC didn't have to fight every year in order to receive money.

... While the House Agriculture Committee increased funds for CFP to $30 million, the money is discretionary, meaning that it's possible this vital program gets nothing at all when it comes time to dole out the money each year. There is no money in the appropriations bill for FY '08, so if the change to discretionary stands, there will be no money for CFP in 2008. ...

From the Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (doc)

  • $3 billion be restored to the Conservation Security Program
  • Real payment limits be applied to commodity programs, including a $40,000 direct payment cap and the closing of all loopholes.

Note that introducing a hard cap of $40,000 on these payments would represent an immediate and sizeable reduction in subsidy payments, without jeopardizing farms teetering on the edge of disaster.

From the Center For Rural Affairs:

The Competitive and Fair Agricultural Markets Act (H.R. 2135) will help restore competition and fairness to livestock markets and address the unchecked market power of packers and poultry processors that has allowed them to manipulative livestock markets and discriminate against small and mid-sized family farms and ranches. Livestock Subcommittee Chair Leonard Boswell will offer the bill as an amendment to the livestock sections of the farm bill on Thursday, May 24th.

... Rep. Boswell’s amendment prohibits mandatory binding arbitration clauses, requires clear disclosure of risk, and prohibits confidentiality clauses in contracts with packers and processors; closes poultry loopholes in Packers and Stockyards Act to provide full authority over all poultry cases; and requires that USDA define the legal term "undue preference" to strengthen the law and stop price discrimination against small and mid-sized farmers and ranchers. ...

[or, from email]

... [T]he House Agriculture Committee struck a major blow against family farms. The Committee approved a big increase in subsidies for mega-farms to drive smaller operations out of business.  

If it stands, the government will spend more to destroy family farming. The real limit on direct payments, made regardless of crop prices, is raised from $80,000 to $120,000. All existing limits on loan deficiency payments are simply removed, and other loopholes exploited by mega-farms are left open.

... Those that support this [payment limitation] increase are touting a provision that denies payments to couples with income greater than $2 million. But that will have little impact in Iowa, other than causing rich landlords to switch to cash rents. And any mega-farm with decent tax advice will keep taxable income below $2 million by investing in expansion. ...

All the foregoing proposals are in jeopardy. All of them could have used the support and effort that was thrown into an unwise frontal assault on subsidies, without consultation from groups who make it their business to represent small, sustainable farms and urban populations facing food insecurity.

Time is short. The Farm Bill and all proposed amendments, including the FARM 21 offerings, are going to the floor this week. Every member of Congress is going to get the chance to vote on the issues, so please contact your congressperson by phone today and ask them for reform that won't destroy either their political capital or family farming. If you already know who your representative is, you can call the United States Capitol switchboard directly at (202) 224-3121, and ask for their office.

You can ask them for full funding for the Conservation Security Program, mandatory funding for Community Food Projects, $40k caps on direct payments, $40k yearly maximum caps on conservation payouts, and a vote for HR 2135 to let farmers back into court and end unconscionable farming contracts. They pay attention to phone calls, they notice. Be specific, and don't hesitate to call across party lines or to a member of Congress whose mind you suspect is made up. Farm issues get very little notice as a general rule, so your voice can really make a difference.

PS - OrangeClouds115 wrote earliers about arbitration and CSP, but not specifically within the context of FARM 21, which has gotten a lot of attention because of Blumenauer's outreach campaigns.

Originally posted to natasha on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 10:06 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Catholics are mobilizing on the Farm Bill (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    natasha, OrangeClouds115, vbdietz

    They were asking us to sign the petition last Sunday.

    It would be nice if Catholics and the whole religious groups mobilize too to bring the troops home from Iraq.

  •  What's the short version? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    natasha, vbdietz

    I'm confused.

    What's Congress doing about global warming? Read in Hill Heat!

    by The Cunctator on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 10:05:50 AM PDT

    •  short version: (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      natasha, marina, smokeymonkey, vbdietz
      1. Don't commit political suicide
      1. The Kind/Blumenauer approach to the farm bill is stupid
      1. Instead of wasting their time arguing for something that would amount to political suicide - that also doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of passing - Kind, Blumenauer, and other well-meaning Democrats should spend their time trying to get helpful AND popular programs passed.
    •  Or ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      buddabelly, dallasdave

      ... You can ask them for full funding for the Conservation Security Program, mandatory funding for Community Food Projects, $40k caps on direct payments, $40k yearly maximum caps on conservation payouts, and a vote for HR 2135 to let farmers back into court and end unconscionable farming contracts. ...

      •  But, but...this would devastate family farmers (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        NCrefugee, marina

        like ADM and Cargill!

        Another problem is that a lot of family farms are essentially sharecroppers for the big, high-density agribusinesses: say you own 100 acres in Arkansas, inherited from your parents. ROI on cattle sucks because you're being whipsawed between Excell lowballing beef payments and ADM highballing grain costs.

        So you go see Tyson--chickens are cash money with a 7-8 week turnaround. Unfortunately you have to borrow to build the houses (15-20+ thousand birds in each), then you sign a contract with Tyson: they give you the chicks, they give you the feed, they pick up the chickens and pay you market less the cost of chicks and feed. For some reason, this arrangement never results in a lot of money. But, it can be worse: in a heat wave a lot of the chickens die. In a cold snap you spend more on propane to heat the houses than you make. And you still have the loan for the houses to repay. The farmer, of course, assumes all of the risk.

        The good news is that, unlike pigs, the chicken manure is great fertilizer for pastureland. Not fun to collect and spread, but the grass really likes it. High-density pig farming is an environmental disaster, especially near waterways.

        Typically, the next step for some families is for one member to go to work at Wal-Mart--it's cash money, but not much.

        I'd love to see some subsidies that really help the family farmers hang onto their land and prosper. I'm pretty much convinced that nobody within the beltway has a clue about the true economics of a family farm.

        I used to think there was no evil in the world... but then I didn't know Dick.

        by dallasdave on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 10:47:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  serfs (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          marina, dallasdave

          the contract poultry growers are basically serfs. and totally screwed by Tyson and co on their contracts. Like Natasha and others have mentioned, the ONE provision to help contract farmers, to get rid of mandatory arbitration, was overturned by the Republicans + Collin Petersen doing the bidding of Tyson and the National Chicken Council. a small step for justice for the poultry growers got shot down. sucks.

          And yes, you can't make it when 4 meatpackers (incl. Excel) control the market. Does Kind-Flake or the House farm bill even attempt to address this? NO!

          IF you want family farmers to survive, they don't want subsidies (at least the ones i work with). they simply want to be paid a fair price for their goods. so that is why you need a price floor and supply management approach (which we had under the new Deal). and they want fair and competitive markets, not the oligopolies we have. unfortunately, this vision goes against "free trade" mania that says we need to have a race to the bottom for cheap commodities and "economies of scale" (which just gets us more factory farms and more contract farming).

          •  Yeah, I escaped from that. Dad sold the farm, (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Farm Bill Girl

            I went to college and got me one of them inside jobs. Beats passing out from ammonia while shoveling chicken sh*t and beats hand-feeding 20,000 chickens (we couldn't afford the new automatic feeders). Was so much penicillin in the feed that my Dad went into anaphilactic shock one day. Also beats walking through the chicken house during the heat waves and moving the chickens out of the waterers--they'd sit in the waterers to cool off and the waterers, being weight activated, soon had no water. We couldn't get them out fast enough and thousands died. I think we made a couple of hundred dollars off of that batch.

            I hope you keep the farm issues front and center--the farmers deserve a break and the Dems deserve the farmers.

            I used to think there was no evil in the world... but then I didn't know Dick.

            by dallasdave on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 01:50:14 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  sad (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              we've ruined so much of rural America with those contract farms and made a mockery of what it means to be a "farmer." and neither party addresses this fact of life. they are so in bed with National Chicken Council and the like that it never changes, and too many poultry growers fear to speak out--what other jobs are there besides Walmart? Who was Hillary Clinton's BFF in Arkansas? Tyson. i don't see reform coming from her.

              i have always wondered what would happen if the first politician in the South to campaign on the issue of poultry contracts runs. i think they could do very well. most contract growers i think have just given up on the political process. can't blame them when you see what happened in the House ag cmtee.

              but hey, i get $1 Chicken McNuggets!

  •  Excellent diary, Natasha. (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    natasha, marina, corvo, buddabelly, vbdietz

    Highly recommended. The DailyKos community is lucky to have you. You understand this stuff as few others do AND you can explain it to the rest of us in plain Engish.

  •  Excellent diary, thanks! n/t (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    natasha, OrangeClouds115, vbdietz
  •  Good analysis Natasha (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    natasha, OrangeClouds115

    Hope it gets more attention.

  •  just made my phone call (0+ / 0-)

    now can someone tell me - why did the guy who answered the phone have a very lovely, posh-sounding British accent?

  •  Cheers? Jeers? n/t (4+ / 0-)
  •  Diane Rehm and Farm Bill (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    On today's show Diane Rehm said she would be hosting a discussion of the 2007 Farm Bill tomorrow (Wed. July 25). Her website shows Wed's topic as TBD, however.

    It is a good opportunity to call in or email.

  •  you had me at (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Rep. Dave Reichert (R-WA)

    A good rule of thumb round these parts, is if Reichert supports it, it has to be a "really bad idea".

    Empty suit is a bit too kind. He is a cardboard cutout who usually has no clue what the local republitarians are having him sign his name to.

    Also remember the quote:

    "Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again.... There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H.L. Hunt...a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid."
    --Eisenhower wrote his brother Edgar on May 2, l956:

    The biggest threat to America is not communism, it's moving America toward a fascist theocracy... -- Frank Zappa

    by NCrefugee on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 10:33:09 AM PDT

  •  I dont understand the Farm Bill (0+ / 0-)

    Looks like the religious groups like the Kind-Flake Bill.

    Chane noted that a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) is expected this week to release a substitute farm bill they intend to offer as an amendment on the House floor. The bill, which has been under development for months, is expected to make key reforms to the commodity program, reducing its harm to farmers in poor countries, striving for equity among farmers in the United States, and reinvesting savings from the commodity program into key initiatives that help rural Americans and those in need.

    Predicting that the package would be "consistent with our value of lifting people out of poverty around the world," Chane said the Kind-Flake alternative will offer a key opportunity for House leadership to stand for "fairness and opportunity for all people."

    A similar proposal by Kind and then-Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY) came close to garnering a House majority during the chamber's last debate on the farm bill in 2002.

    In order to ensure that reform succeeds this time, the Episcopal Church is working with its partner denominations and advocacy organizations to organize grassroots support throughout the country. "Faith farm teams" are working in 38 key states, and Episcopalians and others have flooded congressional offices with calls, emails, and postcards

    •  Religious groups are misguided (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cometman, marina, esquimaux

      I am a Christian, and longtime supporter of Sojourners. The religious groups joining with Oxfam, the Cato Institute are all very misguided in their approach. they mean well, but i think they've been coopted (like Blumeneauer has attempted with the netroots). they believe in the myth of subsidies causing overproduction causing low prices causing dumping in the third world. if you click on my first dairies on subsidies, you will see why I think they are wrong and why simply cutting subsidies will NOT do what the reformers want it to do.

      As a Christian progressive, it pains me to see the mainline denominations get into bed with the likes of the Business Roundtable and Chamber of Commerce.

      You can see here that they want "reform" too--cutting subsidies so that we can restart global trade talks and have more "free trade."

      "It is time for Congress to reform our outdated farm policy to better
      serve the needs of rural America and the entire U.S. economy," said Dooley.
      "That is why GMA and this broad coalition of business leaders, who
      represent tens of millions of U.S. workers, are calling on Congress to
      approve a farm bill that reduces subsidies and fosters an environment more
      conducive to eliminating trade barriers to U.S. products."
         The letter was signed by GMA, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the
      Business Roundtable, the National Association of Manufacturers, the
      National Retail Federation, the Information Technology Industry Council and
      the Retail Industry Leaders Association. It outlined three major
      farm-reform policy goals:
         -- A reduction in excessive subsidies
         -- The elimination of substantial domestic and international agricultural
            market distortions
         -- The protection of basic U.S. farm policies from unwarranted World Trade
            Organization (WTO) attacks

      here is the letter the BUsiness groups sent to Congress:
      Big Business Ag "reform"

      So Environmental Working Group, Enviro Defense, Cato, Oxfam, religious groups are now also on the side of Business Roundtable. How is this possibly "progressive" reform?

      It is sad that unfortunately, too many misguided progressives I know have started calling into Pelosi's office demanding more "reform" and glomming onto the Kind-Flake bill. they say "cut subsidies and give it to fruit and vegetable growers, nutrition and conservation." all very well-meaning. all very wrong.

      The House Farm Bill is a BAD bill. it is status quo and tinkers around the edges by throwing nutrition and organic and local foodies a few bones while sustaining a BAD system. However, the radical deregulation proposal of Kind-Flake is FAR worse, and being done to serve a corporate globalization agenda.

      For what is needed in order to have REAL reform, I would see Institute for Agriculure and Trade Policy's letter and press release regarding how we need 1. a price floor for commodities to make the REAL beneficaires of subsidies (not farmers) pay a fair price (ADM, Smithfield, Tyson, ConAgra) 2. strategic reserves to help manage supply

      this ridiculous debate over subsidies for millionaire farmers vs. small farmers is a smokescreen and NOT the root of the ills of our agriculture system, despite what Ken Cook may say...

      •  It looks to me the opposite (0+ / 0-)

        That Kind and Flake bill would be bad for corporate agriculture that is why they are opposed to it.

        Corporate farms would not anymore enjoy the big subsidies and food prices which are rising everyday in my local stores will be lower.

        Can I ask your affiliation?  Are you affiliated with any group?

        •  Agribusiness loves Kind-Flake (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          if you read my first diary on subsidies, I am affiliated with peasant and family farmer movements. I am not the Farm Bureau.

          i think you are confused with who represents "corporate agriculture". There is Agribusiness, which are the processors, buyers, supermarkets. this includes ADM, Cargill (processors of grain, high fructose corn syrup) and Smithfield, Tyson (processors of meat, feedlots, factory farms).

          Then there are commodity groups like Farm Bureau, National Corn Growers, National Cattlemen, American Soybean, National Pork Producers, blah blah. these groups have a very free-market, free trade, bigger-is-better outlook on farming. but they still want subsidies for when prices get too low. thus, they are the ultimate hypocrites and do NOT speak for family farmers and independent ranchers.

          Commodity groups oppose Kind-Flake because they still want "subsidies" and a safety net for when prices fall. the farmers i work with want a fair price floor so that they can get income from the MARKET and make ADM/Tyson/Smithfield pay a FAIR PRICE for their goods. They don't want subsidies from taxpayers to  make up for their lost income. So the family farmers i work with do not approve of the House farm bill, but neither do they endorse the radical deregulation approach of Kind-Flake which instead of breaking up corporate consolidation of agriculture, simply gives farmers "farmers savings accounts" and "lets the market determine prices."

          Who will love Kind-Flake? ADM. they still get cheap corn, regardless of subsidies. Smithfield and their factory farms because they get cheap feed due to cheap corn. Monsanto is untouched. So is Tyson and ConAgra and Cargill.

          A couple of rice and cotton farmers in the South are the most impacted by payment limitations and subsidy cuts so that's why they're screaming the most about Kind-Flake. i don't defend the rice/cotton folks, but i don't think they're the biggest evil in our system.

          food prices are rising because of mostly oil prices. sorry that the era of cheap oil is over and you are suffering because your twinkies and pepsi and factory-farmed meat cost more. the subsidies actually kept food cheap for you. meanwhile, our health, land, air and water suffered becaue of our industrial agriculture sytem.

  •  question for those of you who are deep in this (0+ / 0-)

    policy analysis: (since I cannot catch up on this huge an issue)

    1. Can a farm bill be crafted that helps family farms without creating loopholes that agribusiness can use the siphon off the subsidies and in some cases the profits of the family farms?
    1. Where does the line get drawn between family farms and factory farms? I have relatives in the NC hog farming cycle, who don't own the pigs but do own the feed and the waste. The factory delivers the piglets and picks up the slaughter weight pigs and pays per pound at a negotiated price. Are they factory farms? Family farms providing a service? or just paid loopholes in the current system?

    Where would this program put them?

    The biggest threat to America is not communism, it's moving America toward a fascist theocracy... -- Frank Zappa

    by NCrefugee on Tue Jul 24, 2007 at 11:04:58 AM PDT

    •  subsidies (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      you should see my first diary regarding subsidies to a fuller explanation.

      1. agribusiness doesn't siphon off subsidies directly. they process and BUY the cheap commodities because we let the "market" determine the price of corn, rice, etc. Taxpayers then make up the difference when the price drops too low.

      Whose Subsidy Is It Anyway?

      So it is wrong when people say, "I don't want farm subsidies going to Cargill or ADM" when those agribusinesses don't receive subsidies directly. it's the farmers with low prices who is receiving them. but ADM and Cargill ARE the biggest beneficiaries, as are factory farms who get cheap feed because of below-priced corn.

      I think that is the distinction that has so many people confused as to how subsidies work and which people like EWG and Enviro Defense confuse the hell out of people on when they talk about Scottie Pippen or people in Manhatten getting subsidies. "Millionaire farmers" is beside the point. it's millionaire multinationals who REALLY profit from our subsidy system. cutting the loopholes and so forth will target a couple farms, but it does NOTHING to lessen agribusiness' strangehold on our food systems.

      1. this bill does nothing regarding stopping or reforming factory farming. what you are describing with your NC relatives is contract farming--where farmers are basically serfs, at the mercy of a company, who provides the inputs, but takes NONE of the risks. This has led to HUGE abuses in the system, where companies (Like Smithfield or Tyson) can cancel contracts at will, or put the farmer on the hook for any enviro costs. most of these serf farmers also lose money and many go out of business. Also, manytimes the contracts force farmers to accept mandatory arbitration is a problem arises--you lose your right to jury trial.

      There are many groups who have been working on contract reform for decades now, including getting rid of mandatory arbitration. We succeeded in getting an amendment passed in Subcommitte, but at Full committee, it was gutted by the Republicans, with the support of corporate Dems like Peterson, Tim Holden, Cuellar. it was the only amendment we lost to the Republicans. These contracts are mostly in the hog and poultry industry. the cattle industry lives in fear that they will lose their autonomy and someday become serfs like what has happened in the poultry/hog industries.

      The free-range, organic, anti-antibiotic movt provides the only alt. hope for poultry/hog farmers wanting to retain some autonomy.

      the only other real way the farm bill impacts contract hog farmers, because they don't receive subsidies directly, is the price of feed. hog farmers have benefitted from below-cost feed now for many years, but with $4 corn now, they are finding it tougher.

      in short: the farm bill doesn't really help people like your relatives, since that's not the focus of the "reformers."

  •  If this vote fails.... (0+ / 0-)

    is the status quo better?  Or is this a better bill than the status quo but just needs some reworking?

  •  Farm bills are like energy bills. (0+ / 0-)

    Regardless of the initial intent, regardless of what legislators claim in public, invariably lobbyists and other corporate vampires convert the final product into yet another form of corporate welfare.

    The entire structure of agribusiness in America closely resembles that of Wal-Mart retailing. A few colossal companies control all processing and distribution, permitting them to dictate prices to the indentured servants supplying them with product. This ensures atrocities like the entry of melamine-tainted gluten from China into the food chain; it's the logical outcome of this process. The genuine love of farming as life's calling and the pull of tradition has led family farmers to ruin; agribusiness exploits their need to farm by putting the screws to them until they're bankrupt.

    Unless and until agriculture is radically restructured into a decentralized transaction between independent farmers & co-ops of buyers, this corrupt system will continue to destroy the land, fatten our children and turn our farmers into slaves.

  •  Farmers don't generally vote democratic.. (0+ / 0-)

    so a lot of your political "analysis" is moot. Perhaps we could pick up a few votes with a Bill that caters to farmers, but should we be "buying votes" through policy legislation? That is just another form of corruption.

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