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Farm Bill Foul-Up: Second Chance for VA Farmers?

May 23, 2008

Washington, DC - A clerical blunder by Congress could be a blessing for Virginia's farmers. There is more time to work on the 2008 U.S. Farm Bill after President Bush vetoed it this week, because Congress sent the wrong draft to the White House for approval. Now, lawmakers must approve the bill with the errors corrected. The President calls this an opportunity to make improvements and, perhaps, avoid another veto.

Jim French, lead field organizer for the international relief and development organization, Oxfam America, agrees with the President's position on the original version of the bill.

"As we move toward the Memorial Day recess, Oxfam wants to give Virginia farmers the opportunity to say, 'This farm bill does not serve us, and it's hurting people all around the world.'"

French says the changes Bush is proposing to the bill's farm subsidy programs would mean more help for Virginia's small farmers.

"We know in those areas where subsidies are most highly concentrated, we have the fastest rate of rural decline and rural poverty. It's because our system pays by the acre and by the bushel. It encourages growth and consolidations of farms, which might naturally occur, but we basically fan the fire."

French believes Congress should use the opportunity to improve the way price supports for mega-farms are calculated. In his view, it would also be an improvement to provide money rather than grain to fight hunger overseas, which would lead to stronger local farm economies in those developing countries. Finally, he says, the government should cut a farm bill subsidy that goes to shipping companies.

John Robinson/Don Mathisen, Public News Service - VA