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Congress is Back, with Farm Bill on the Front Burner

January 15, 2008

St. Paul, MN – Congress gets back to work today after its holiday break. At the top of the agenda is a long overdue Farm Bill. The House and Senate have different versions of the $286 billion plan and need to find common ground.

Doug Peterson with the Minnesota Farmers Union says lawmakers need to get something on the books soon, because the spring planting season isn't far away.

"That leaves a lot of farmers with a lot of decisions to make in a real big hurry, or else we're kind of left in a lurch."

Another concern is that President Bush has threatened to veto the bill over subsidies and creation of a permanent disaster fund. A veto would put everything back to "square one," Peterson says, adding that farmers need to know the rules and shouldn't be used as political pawns.

But the bill isn't just about farmers, Peterson notes.

"Well over two-thirds of it goes to nutrition. That's for "Meals On Wheels" for the elderly and hot lunch programs. There also are conservation measures within this bill."

He also points to a section adding more funding for farm fuels, something that will help reduce the need for imported oil and help rural economies. And it includes a "Country of Origin" labeling requirement, so shoppers will know where their food comes from.

Without a new bill, the old farm bill would stay in effect. Peterson says that wouldn't reflect current markets or national needs.

Jim Wishner/Eric Mack, Public News Service - MN