Saturday, May 17, 2008

With Election Looming, Goodlatte Listens

By a vote of 318-106 the House of Representatives passed a $209 billion farm bill that includes crop subsidies, school lunches, and promotes ethanol. It also includes historic funding for cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay. Bob Goodlatte, whose hearing may have improved a bit with elections less than six months away, voted for the bill. The Virginia delegation supported the bill by a vote of 7-4  with Republicans Goode, Wolfe, Davis, and Cantor voting no. Agriculture is important in all of Virginia, nowhere more so than the 6th District.
The bill now goes to the Senate where it has bipartisan support. President Bush, saying the bill gives too much to farmers, is threatening a veto. If the House numbers stay firm, there will be sufficient votes to override. Goodlatte, who has rarely broken from the Bush position on anything, will be one to watch closely. Perhaps the increasing irrelevancy of the president combined with GOP setbacks in recent special elections and a strong challenge by Democrat Sam Rasoul have gotten Mr. Goodlatte's attention. 
Environmentalists have applauded the increased funding ($440 million) for bay cleanup efforts. "This is a win for everybody. It's a win for the farmers who are looking for help in their efforts to improve the Chesapeake Bay and it's a win for everybody in the region who loves the bay," said Doug Siglin, of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. The funding would support various programs affecting farms - planting cover crops and forested buffer zones to help filter out contaminants before they get into streams and rivers that flow into the bay. It is estimated that about 40% of contaminants come from farms in the bay's watershed.
The bill retains the traditional commodity subsidies and includes $3.8 billion permanent disaster payment program for farmers hit hard by weather losses.
Any blog named Coarse Cracked Corn has an interest in a farm bill and especially in the ethanol provisions. The president has pushed ethanol as a partial solution to our energy needs but from my perspective corn-based ethanol is not the way to go. It is expensive to produce and puts energy and food in competition. On the positive side, the farm bill places new emphasis on other sources of ethanol including incentives for sugar and cellulosic (like wood chips) ethanol production - a good development that may make ethanol production more efficient and reduce its emphasis on corn. The bill cuts the tax credit for ethanol producers by 6 cents to 45 cents/gallon. On the other hand, the bill preserves some favoritism for corn ethanol and protects domestic ethanol production by maintaining a high tariff to keep Brazilian ethanol, which is made from sugar, out of U.S. markets. I hope this anti-competitive tariff is temporary. For more information on the energy provisions of the farm bill check out this article.
That's all from the barnyard for now. Peck. Peck.

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