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Schafer says White House can’t wait to veto farm bill

By Janet Kubat Willette

jkubat@agrinews.com

WASHINGTON — The White House and Senate Democrats traded barbs in dueling press conferences Friday.

Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said the administration is disappointed with the results of the farm bill put together by House and Senate conferees.

"The president will veto this bill when he gets it," Schafer said. "Certainly we’re all going to be cheering on from afar and arms length …"

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Schafer outlined the administration’s opposition to the bill, saying it fails to contain real reform, increases the bill on taxpayers by $20 billion, increases the loan rate for 15 crops and target prices for 17 crops and fails to set a reasonable income limit.

Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., addressed each claim, laying out the facts as he sees them in an eight page report, Rhetoric v. Reality.

The bill does rebalance loan rates and target prices, Conrad said, but these don’t increase farm payments unless market prices fall and counter-cyclical payments or loan deficiency payments are made. Both were also rebalanced in the 2002 farm bill.

Conrad said the bill makes cuts to programs, including cutting the ethanol blenders credit to 45 cents from 51 cents, to pay for other programs contained in the bill.

Commodity program spending will account for only a quarter of 1 percent of the federal budget under this bil, down from three-quarters of 1 percent in the last farm bill, Conrad said.

Minnesota’s two senators both praised the bill.

"This is a strong, bipartisan bill,’’ said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. "I am particularly pleased that the incentives for cellulosic biofuels – the next generation of renewable, homegrown energy – remain in the bill. I want to thank our Committee Chairmen, Rep. Collin Peterson and Sen. Tom Harkin, for their leadership in negotiating this agreement.’’

"I’ve been very clear in saying that vetoing this farm bill would simply be a mistake and that the president would be wrong not to sign this bill," said Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. "This process has been about compromise from day one, and the bipartisan agreement reached by the conference committee is a bill that contains significant reforms all sides can agree on. The farm bill puts food on our shelves, conserves our precious natural resources and feeds millions of Americans in need."

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