Ag Secretary Decries Farm Bill Subsidy Renewal

A House subcommittee voted to renew 2002 subsidy programs, and USDA Secretary Mike Johanns is unhappy with the decision.

House of Representatives ag subcommittee members voted Tuesday in favor of renewing the subsidy portion of the 2002 Farm Bill for five more years rather than rewriting the safety net. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who had supported reforms that would keep a safety net in place without being challenged by the World Trade Organization, is not happy with the subcommittee's recommendation.

"I am disappointed in the Title I legislation put forth today by the House Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. The bill fails to recognize the need for greater equity and predictability in farm policy, and does nothing to provide a more responsive safety net," Johanns said in a statement Tuesday.

He thanked several subcommittee members for looking at the Administration's proposal for the subsidy portion of the 2007 Farm Bill, but expressed disappointment that the legislators did not follow his recommendations.

"We must address farm policy that provides the highest payments when abundant yields lead to moderate prices and provides no payments when low or no yields lead to high prices," Johanns says. "The bill advanced today offers no remedy. The Administration's revenue-based counter cyclical program proposal is far more responsive to actual producer needs.

"The House draft also fails to bring greater equity to farm policy. Some farmers would continue to receive guaranteed money while others, including 60% of farmers, are left out. Fruit and vegetable growers in California, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and elsewhere make a compelling case that they deserve to be supported."

"I also believe there is a point at which successful farmers should graduate from subsidy programs. Farmers among the wealthiest 2% of Americans should be applauded for their success and graduated from government subsidies. The Administration's proposals provide a pathway to greater equity by eliminating commodity subsidies for farmers with Adjusted Gross Incomes of $200,000 or more, averaged over three years. It is the right thing to do and it allows us to direct increased support to beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers."

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