Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Bush caves on farm subsidy cuts

The spineless Bush administration has caved on its plan to cut farm program subsidies.

After two months of fierce resistance from farmers and Congress, the Bush administration has dropped an effort to cut government payments to farmers.

Bush asked Congress in February to slash billions of dollars from payments to large farm operations, dropping the maximum farmers are allowed to collect from $360,000 to $250,000 and closing loopholes allowing some growers to obtain millions of dollars. He also proposed to cut all farm payments by 5 percent.

The problem with farm subsidies is that the bulk of the money goes to a handful of huge agri-business corporations - not small independent farmers.

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns has argued that bigger operations collect too big a share of government payments. According to his department, 8 percent of producers receive 78 percent of subsidies.

The scary think now is that while Bush has wimped out on reducing the flow of federal dollars to these large farming conglomerates (which contribute heavily to Republican political causes), he is still requiring big cuts from the Agriculture Department.

Bush's proposed cuts would total $8 billion over 10 years, as calculated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. Last month, House budget writers cut Agriculture Department spending for 2006 by $5.3 billion, while their Senate counterparts cut it by $2.8 billion.

On Tuesday, Johanns told key senators that while spending must be reduced to hold down the federal deficit, he is willing to look elsewhere in agriculture programs for cuts.

If the cuts don’t come from subsidy payments to corporate farming operations, where will they come from. Oh, yes. The story addresses that too.

If cuts don't come from payments to farmers, they still must come from somewhere. Republican committee chairmen have suggested reductions in spending on land conservation and nutrition programs, such as food stamps, also run by the Agriculture Department.

They will just cut funding for land conservation and food stamps! Suddenly, the Bush administration finds its spine when it comes to taking money away from poor hungry children and environmental conservation programs.

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