What members of Congress hope is the -final- version of the Farm Bill will head to the House and Senate for a vote next week. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, says he’s pleased with the massive piece of legislation, which incorporates not only a host of farming issues but conservation, nutrition, energy and disaster assistance.
Harkin says the bill has "broad bi-partisan support from members (of Congress) who represent nearly every corner of the nation. People are always telling us to work together and quit our bickering, well, we did." He notes that when the legislation originally passed in the Senate, it got 79 votes, the most ever for a Farm Bill.
The 300-billion dollar measure is still too expensive, according to President Bush, who reportedly isn’t satisfied with it but did not use the word "veto" in his discussion about it on Wednesday. Harkin says completion of the bill comes at a crucial time as American farmers are working hard to meet soaring worldwide demand for food.
"To address this challenge, our bill expands and strengthens the (U.S. Department of) Agriculture’s conservation initiatives with four-billion dollars in new funding for the conservation title. It’ll be used to reward farmers and ranchers for sound conservation practices," Harkin says.
Meanwhile, 26 U.S. senators are asking the E.P.A. for corn-based ethanol production goals of nine-billion gallons to be cut in half, claiming high demand for corn is driving up food prices. Harkin says those claims simply aren’t true.
He says: "What’s that old Will Rogers saying? ‘It’s not what we don’t know that hurts us so much, it’s what we know that ain’t so.’ Everybody seems to ‘know’ that ethanol’s causing these high food prices, but it just isn’t so." Harkin points to high energy and transportation costs driving up the price of food, not corn, as the type of corn used to make ethanol isn’t even the type of corn people can eat.
An official from the National Corn Growers Association predicts the effort to scale back ethanol production will fail, noting, most of the senators pushing for the cut come from states that produce oil and raise plenty of livestock — which eat corn. Iowa is the nation’s number-one ethanol producer.