On the eve of a House committee markup of the 2007 farm bill, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns reiterated his concern that the measure doesn't go far enough to reshape existing farm policy.
"I feel that an opportunity is being missed here," he says, referring to the version of the bill put together by House Agriculture Chairman Collin C. Peterson, D-Minn. The committee is scheduled to debate the bill for three days starting Tuesday.
Johanns said when he visited rural communities during 2006 and the first part of this year farmers told him they wanted more money for rural development, research and biofuels programs. Peterson's bill misses the mark, he said.
Johanns also expressed concern that some expansions in subsidy rates will invite more complaints from America's foreign trade partners.
To expand an already tight farm bill budget – about $226 billion over the next five years according to the House Budget Committee – Peterson shifted some payments to farmers and crop insurance companies.
But Johanns said the budgetary maneuver produces fake savings. The department estimates $3 billion would be saved as a result, but that money would still have to be paid out eventually.
Peterson defended his approach, saying the White House and Republicans use such budgetary tactics all the time.
"If [Johanns] has such a problem, he should go talk to his boss about this," Peterson said in a press conference.
Source: Congressional Quarterly