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White House Veto Threat Hangs Over Farm Bill Debate

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July 26, 2007

Despite threats of a presidential veto, farm leaders from across the nation are in Washington D.C. this week to keep close tabs on the progress of the next farm bill. It's scheduled for debate on the House floor Thursday. South Dakota Farmers Union president Doug Sombke says the bill isn't perfect, but it will provide a safety net for farmers when prices are low. It also implements Country of Origin Labeling, a law passed in 2002 but never implemented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"Our organization, working with the American Meat Institute, has come to an agreement to implement this into action for the American people so they know where their beef and seafood and vegetables are coming from. This is a big step. Our national office has worked very hard, working out a negotiation agreement with the meat industry."

Sombke concedes the farm bill could be improved with better conservation and nutrition programs and funding for small and beginning farmers, but that, overall, the legislation treats South Dakota farmers about the same as the current farm bill. However, he feels President Bush's threat to veto the bill is a major concern.

"You've got to remember that back in 2002 he proposed to veto it right up to the 11th hour. And then he finally did sign, which is quite interesting to me that he signed one bill but he doesn't want to sign this one. I do know one thing that they would give up every farmer in the United States plus throw in the kitchen sink just to write a World Trade Organization agreement."

The White House opposes the bill in its current form. The Administration argues that it increases taxes and uses accounting tricks to pay for programs. Sombke disagrees, noting that the new farm bill takes what was good in the 2002 bill and improves on it for 2007.

David Law/Eric Mack, Public News Service - SD