Passes Farm Bill That Doubles Conservation Spending
- The U.S. Senate has passed a farm bill that boost subsidies
for growers of staple crops, and doubles spending for
farmland conservation. The bill also includes provisions
to protect water supplies from agricultural runoff, preserve
wetlands, and promote water conservation for the protection
The bill, authored by Senator Tom Harkin, is in marked contrast
to the House version of farm legislation, providing far
more money to help farmers safeguard clean water, protect
wetlands and reduce suburban sprawl.
Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the Senate Agriculture,
Nutrition and Forestry Committee, says the bill improves
current policies for farmers and rural communities by
protecting farm income, conserving resources, boosting
economic growth and creating new jobs.
new bipartisan farm bill is a important victory for the
economy of rural America, and it couldn't come at a more
crucial time," said Harkin after the Senate voted 58-40
to approve the bill. "Our family farmers and rural communities
are struggling and this bill offers some hope for the
future. This is the economic recovery package rural and
small town America needs. It will bring new jobs, new
markets and greater opportunity."
The bill would authorize $45 billion in new spending over
the next five years, increasing traditional subsidies
for growers of cotton, wheat and other grains. The legislation
includes a number of new subsidies for producers of honey,
wool, milk and other commodities.
The Bush administration criticized the Senate passed bill
for spending too much money in the first five years of its
10 year span, leaving little for future programs. President
George W. Bush said Wednesday that he was "disappointed"
in the Senate passed bill, saying it "doesn't get the job
done" to support the nation's farmers.
Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman agreed, adding, "the
House passed bill spreads the funding much more evenly
over a 10 year period." A Congressional agreement reached
last year would commit $73.5 billion over the next decade
to farm programs. The Senate bill would spend $45 billion
of that money before 2007, compared to $38 billion over
the next five years in the House version.
Veneman said the Bush administration will work with the
House-Senate conference committee to craft a compromise
between the two versions of the legislation that "promotes
expanded trade, encourages improved conservation, establishes
farm savings accounts and adheres to the budget agreement."
Senate Republicans opposed many aspects of the bill, and
only nine Republican senators, whose states would benefit
from the new subsidies supported by the bill, voted in
Daschle-Harkin farm bill creates incentives for overproduction
by making larger payments to a few big farms thus guaranteeing
overall lower prices for farm commodities and perpetual
calls for more assistance by federal lawmakers," said
Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, senior Republican on
the Senate Agriculture Committee.
However, the bill "does include good provisions that increase
the U.S. commitment to conservation, credit for young farmers,
job creating rural development, nutrition, agricultural
research, biomass ethanol and renewable energy," Lugar added.
In a change from past policy and from the House version
of the legislation, Harkin's bill would limit the total
amount of subsidy payments that any one farm could receive,
capping that support at $275,000. The measure would save
an estimated $1.3 billion over 10 years that will be divided
among the food stamp program, agriculture research, a
beginner farmer program and crop insurance.
The bill "represents a bipartisan commitment to moving
farm policy in a new direction by including meaningful
payment limits which will help ensure that more of the
support gets to the farmers who actually need help," said
Harkin's bill would also double federal spending on farmland
conservation over the next ten years.
… proud that this bill makes good on our commitment to
make conservation a centerpiece of farm policy," Harkin
said. "That's good for our family farmers and its good
for our environment."
Harkin's bill would increase wetlands protected by the Wetlands
Reserve Program to 250,000 acres per year, 100,000 acres
per year more than the House passed bill. Wetlands act as
a filter to clean polluted water, protect against flooding
and provide wildlife habitat.
The Senate bill would increase funding to protect farmland
from suburban sprawl, boosting it to $250 million a year
by the end of the five year period. The House bill authorizes
just $50 million per year.
House turned its back on family farmers, ranchers, and
clean water but we are grateful to the Senate and Senator
Harkin for working to protect us," said Bob Warrick, a
family rancher from Nebraska who chairs the Sierra Club's
agriculture committee. "While ironing out the differences
in a conference committee, the House should adopt the
Senate conservation measures."
The Senate bill incorporates a new provision, the Conservation
Security Act, which rewards farmers who protect water,
air, soil and wildlife. It also provides for an important
water conservation program, which will be crucial in protecting
habitat in dry areas, and subsidies for farmers who volunteer
to reduce irrigation to protect water supplies for endangered
The Senate bill also makes major improvements over the
House's provision concerning animal waste. Manure runoff
from fields and leaky storage pits is a major source of
The House bill would provide billions of dollars in federal
tax subsidies to large, industrial scale livestock operations
controlled by major corporations. In contrast, the Senate
bill dedicates more money to smaller, family sized livestock
farmers, to help them stop pollution by building manure
management systems, thanks to an amendment by Minnesota
Senator Paul Wellstone.
Michelle Kenyon, coordinator of the Iowa Sustainable Energy
for Economic Development (SEED) Coalition, said her group
is "very pleased with the inclusion, for the first time,
of an energy title in the Farm Bill." The Senate bill includes
incentives supporting renewable power production on farms,
including wind, solar and biomass energy.
resources available in this bill will be readily used
to promote and develop clean, renewable sources of energy
that are good for the environment, good for diversifying
our energy sources, and good for our rural and farm economy,"
The Senate also attached a provision known as the School
Environment Protection Act, which aims to protect children
from pesticides and promote safer pest management practices
in schools. The measure would require schools to adopt
integrated pest management policies, notify students,
parents and teachers of the timing and type of pesticide
use, and offer information on the adverse effects of pesticides,
among other steps.
hope that the Agriculture Conference Committee will now
see the importance of embracing this piece of legislation.
Children, teachers and school staff deserve the basic
health and safety protections that this measure would
provide," said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond
Pesticides, a Washington based public interest group.
Animal rights advocates applauded several measures included
in the Senate farm bill, including provisions to combat
animal fighting, to address inhumane treatment of farm
animals, to combat some abuses at puppy mills, and to
halt the international trade in bear parts.
However, the final Senate bill also includes a measure
to exclude protection from Animal Welfare Act standards
for birds, rats and mice used in research.