Farm measure gives too much to too few
A $307 billion farm bill has been sent to President Bush, who promises a veto.
Congress' passage of the farm bill by an overwhelming margin has been largely framed as a political blow to President Bush whose promised veto of the $307 billion measure will be an empty gesture.
With once-loyal Republicans sidling away from him to buttress their election-year fortunes, Bush finds himself without support in opposing the expensive, defective measure.
The complex farm bill delivers too much to too few agribusinesses and too little to real farmers. But bundled with worthy programs to feed the poor and conserve agriculture land, Congress gives itself cover to funnel subsidies to wealthy corporations that have seen near record prices for their commodity crops. It also carries unseemly provisions such as tax breaks for racehorse breeding, an enterprise that hardly qualifies as farming.
But amid the squander of tax dollars, the bill is the first ever to send significant funding to growers of fruits and vegetables, products that account for about half of the country's crop values. It directs more than $1 billion in grants to help produce farmers and provides another $1 billion for a pilot program to get fresh fruit and vegetables into school snacks at a time when federal lunch programs are being retooled toward healthier foods.
The bill has grown from a Depression-era aid project to one that covers biofuels, food labeling, rural development, food stamps, nutrition and other programs that need to be separated in order for fair decisions on funding. Too long has it been a tool for Congress to score political points.
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