WASHINGTON — Stating that the 2007 Farm Bill still does too little to limit federal subsidies to growers of commodity crops such as corn, wheat, soybeans and cotton, the White House has threatened to veto the legislation, raising the prospect that provisions in the current Farm Bill could be extended if a compromise cannot be reached.
In a Statement of Administration Policy issued by the Office of Management and Budget, the White House said: “At a time when net farm income is projected to increase by over $28 billion in one year, it is irresponsible to further increase commodity price supports that make payment programs more market-distorting.”
The statement echoes criticism levied against the current subsidy system by fruit and vegetable growers, as well as advocates for organic agriculture and childhood nutrition programs — groups that have fought for additional budget allocations in the 2007 Farm Bill.
Historically, Farm Bills have focused a significant portion of their funding — $13.2 billion annually in the 2002 bill — to commodity crop subsidies. Yet the recent ethanol boom has doubled the price of corn in a single year, and worldwide droughts have caused wheat prices to spike, leading to record revenues for many commodity crop growers.
In a conference call explaining the Bush administration's position, acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner further noted that the bill contains unfunded commitments totaling $12 billion, with funding for drought and disaster assistance, as well as food stamp programs, all set to expire in 2013, given the bill's current language.
“Congress is simply not being honest about the true cost of these initiatives,” Conner said. He added that he was “disappointed that the Senate did not do more to respond to the calls for reform” raised during the USDA's Farm Bill Forums.
It should be noted that the Bush administration expressed similar criticisms regarding the 2002 Farm Bill, although the White House ultimately passed that legislation after compromises were reached on commodity loan rates, conservation provisions, international trade obligations and other issues.