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Compromise Helps NV Ranchers, but Leaves Mega Farmers “Raking It In”

May 16, 2008

Las Vegas, NV – Critics here of the new national farm bill, approved this week in Congress, complain that Nevada cattle ranchers and programs for poor and rural Nevadans stand to receive only a fraction of the assistance committed to Midwest "mega-farms" through subsidies. The $307 billion, five-year measure sailed through the Senate Thursday.

Senator Harry Reid hailed it as a necessary compromise, but Sandra Schubert, with the Environmental Working Group, disputes that. She says the agriculture lobby came out way ahead of the interests of everyday Nevadans.

"There are a lot of multimillionaires who are going to get taxpayer subsidies, and that means money won't be going to vital programs that all Nevadans need and use. More money could have gone into food stamps, as well as toward supporting rural development, since Nevada is largely a rural state."

Nevada ranchers are hailing the bill's permanent disaster relief provision, which Dan Owens, with the Center for Rural Affairs, says will mean the very survival of some farms struck by the forces of nature.

"When a disaster is declared, they will be eligible for up to a 75-percent payment on the value of their livestock. This program would make payments available to crop farmers as well, but it sets the precedent that livestock farmers should be included when we have natural disasters."

However, Owens cautions, the majority of this relief money would be likely to pour into Midwestern states that already receive the vast majority of farm bill funding. Nevada ranks 47th out of the 50 states in federal farm subsidies.

Nevada’s Senators were divided on the issue, with Reid voting for it and John Ensign opposing it. President Bush is expected to veto the measure because of the subsidies, but that may be largely symbolic, since both houses of Congress have the votes to override a veto.

Michael Clifford/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - NV