Nathan Stubbs

Farm bill heads to veto showdown

by Nathan Stubbs

An omnibus $307 billion Farm Bill – with significant subsidies for Louisiana’s sugar, rice and sweet potato farmers, among others – has sailed through Congress and now heads to President Bush, who has vowed to veto the measure as early as today. Bush has complained that the bill costs too much and does not go far enough in curbing subsidies for wealthy farmers, lending assistance to married farmers who bring in as much as $1.5 million a year. Critics also contend the bill does little to address rising food prices and hinders small farm development. Congress has vowed to override a presidential veto, which would require a two-thirds majority vote from both the House and Senate.

Two-thirds of spending in the farm bill goes toward nutrition-related programs such as food stamps and food banks. Important measures for Louisiana farmers include a mandate that 85 percent of the nation’s sugar market come from domestic production, with excess foreign supply to be dedicated toward ethanol. The Farm Bill also provides direct and indirect subsidies for growers. In addition, it creates a new $3.8 billion trust fund for farmers who lose crops to flood, fire or drought.

Among Louisiana’s legislators, only Republicans Steve Scalise and Jim McCrery voted against the bill. Louisiana's Democratic legislators and Republican Sen. David Vitter and Congressman Charles Boustany have vowed to work to override Bush’s likely veto.