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May 12, 2008

Farm Bill Showdown?


[Adapted from my post at Red, Green, & Blue on 4.29.2008] Word has it that the farm bill congressional conferees hammered out at the end of last week would most likely be vetoed by President Bush. Opponents argue that the bill is full of wasteful handouts to wealthy growers, while supporters defend the supports as a needed rural safety net that also expands nutrition aid for the poor. The bill is expected to be on the House floor later this week and go to the Senate quickly thereafter.

According to Ryan Grimm at, when asked what the President would do if the current iteration of the farm bill made its way to the President's desk White House spokesman Scott Stanzel replied, "as it stands now, it is not something the president would support." Despite the threat, there may be enough Congressional support to override the veto. According to House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson (D-MN), "If the White House is stupid enough to veto this, they’re going to get overridden.”

The farm bill is a very popular funding mechanism for Congressional spending. Every state's congressional delegation works extremely hard to get their slice of the agricultural pie - not doing so does not bode well in the eyes of powerful ag interests and the voters of agricultural states. In short, farm bills do not get vetoed. At least very rarely do they get vetoed - there are a few exceptions.

One exception to the rule is when a second term president uses a veto (or threatens to veto) an appropriations bill, such as a farm bill - and criticize Congress for loading it with pork and earmarks - without any serious political repercussions. Interestingly enough, the last time a farm bill was vetoed was nearly 10 years ago, when another late second-term president successfully vetoed a farm bill - a veto which Congress made no attempt to override. But the political climate is quite different from that of ten years ago, and I would suspect that this President does not have the political capital to successfully veto the farm bill.

Other posts on farm policy:

"Small Wind Remains in Farm Bill" :: Green Options (12/2007)

Photo: mike138

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