MAY 7TH, 2008 | Harkin for Senate
By Laura Andrews, Globe Gazette
“This is a good bill. It’s good for Iowa, good for production, good for conservation,” said Harkin.
MASON CITY — U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, said Monday he’s pleased with the new farm bill passed by a congressional conference committee after a marathon session last Thursday.
However, gaining President Bush’s favor is another matter. Bush is threatening to veto the legislation unless it substantially cuts subsidies to the nation’s wealthiest farmers.
This version of the bill still needs to be approved by the full House and Senate.
“We have it finished,” Harkin said at a news conference at the Mason City Municipal Airport. “This is a good bill. It’s good for Iowa, good for production, good for conservation.”
Harkin said the cut in subsidies to wealthy farmers is a beginning.
“It has cut down on it a lot,” Harkin said. “Is it as far as I would like it to go? No, but we didn’t have the votes to.”
Harkin said only 5 percent of subsides will go to the nation’s wealthiest farmers.
The new bill will also give farmers a better safety net, he said. The Average Crop Revenue Election (ACRE) will offer better options for managing risk. Farmers will also be able to participate in a state-level revenue protection system.
Conservation, energy and nutrition will also see improvements.
Funding for the Conservation Stewardship Program, previously the Conservation Security Program, will grow. More than 417,000 acres in Iowa will be enrolled, adding an additional $11 million each year to conservation funding in Iowa.
Iowa will also receive $166.5 million for the Environmental Quality Incentives Program during the five years of the farm bill. These two programs will improve water, soil erosion and wildlife in Iowa. The Wetland Reserve Program will also be continued.
Nutrition programs, which haven’t seen many improvements in 30 years, will receive 67 percent of the new money.
“Poor people have fallen behind in paying for food,” Harkin said, noting the food stamp program will be updated with new income requirements.
The bill will also increase funding, grants and research to growers of fruits, vegetables, organic food and other specialty crops.
In the area of energy, farmers will receive incentives to produce biomass crops to supply energy to biorefineries. Harkin said some of the incentives include loan guarantees, rental agreements and other programs to alleviate the cost of production.
Harkin said the bill will likely make it to Bush by next week. If Bush vetoes it, Harkin hopes there will be enough votes to override it.