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February, 26th 2009

Lawmakers rebuffing Obama re: farm subsidies?

– Liz Mair

So says the Washington Times:

Top Democrats and Republicans are already shooting down President Obama's plan to cut farm subsidies, dealing a blow to one of the cost-savings promises he laid out in his congressional address Tuesday night.

"We'll have to see what specifically the president is talking about, but we just finished the farm bill last year, and I don't think we'll open it up," said Rep. Collin C. Peterson, Minnesota Democrat and chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

Likewise, the ranking Republican on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee, said the farm bill, which lasts for five years, "should not be changed midstream."

"I believe it is premature to make any sweeping changes to the makeup of the farm safety net before we have even had the chance to implement the current farm bill," said Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia.

The pushback came a day after Mr. Obama called for cutting subsidies to farm businesses in his address to Congress, one of a few examples of how he can save $2 trillion from the federal budget over 10 years, and as other Democratic leaders took issue with what they see as White House moves into their domain.

I wrote about the Farm Bill quite a bit in 2007, and let's just say that it was not my favorite piece of legislation.[intro]  It continues the tradition of dishing out farm subsidies to people who are, very arguably, better-off and operating a profitable enough business than to actually need them.  If I recall correctly, it also increased sugar subsidy payments, which are objectionable in and of themselves.  Basically, it didn't do a lot (or arguably anything) to reform the subsidy system we have and which is so problematic, especially for a lot of Third World countries whose citizenry would like to be able to export to the developed world more easily, and which (arguably less so than the subsidy policy of the EU, but still) acts as a block on moving global free trde initiatives forward.  Unlike Peterson and Chambliss, I wouldn't mind opening up 2007 bill... so I guess, as will happen occasionally, I am on the same page as President Obama on this one. Now, I'd prefer it if Obama had sounded down on the bill when it was actually under consideration (and when he was running for president) instead of giving off the impression that he was favorable to it.  Of course, Obama wanted to win the Iowa caucuses and in fact carry the state in the general election (as he did), so this may have been inconvenient.  The good news is that he now seems to have seen sense.

(Note: the article linked above also contains some interesting details about earmarks, including Harry Reid quotes underlining his love for, and belief in, them).

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