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Spending Bill, Caps Cause Rancor In D.C.

posted on February 21, 2003

The 2002 Farm Bill was just enacted last year. But many in Congress are working to make adjustments to it. A handful of senators wants to lower the cap on farm payments. But efforts to insert such provisions into the massive, 397 billion dollar spending bill failed.

The president has said he will sign the measure, but he's been critical of its size. It's at least a billion dollars more than he requested. He's also been critical of some of the line items, including funds for a cowgirl hall of fame in Texas and the size of drought relief.

The President is not the only one who sees flaws in the appropriation. For instance, many farm state lawmakers are critical of provisions that roll back funds that would have financed conservation programs. And the organic community is up in arms over language that it sees as a threat to the industry's foundation.


Spending Bill, Caps Cause Rancor In D.C.

A large chicken farmer in Georgia claims there is not enough organic feed to go around and wants to use the organic label without meeting organic feed requirements. Organic standards for meat require a 100 percent organic diet.

Last week, an organic feed exemption allowing organic labels on non-organic meat surfaced in a 3000 page omnibus spending bill. The provisions are allegedly the work of Georgia Representative Nathan Deal and fellow Republican, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Specifically, the language states if organic feed costs are double that of conventional varieties, the Department of Agriculture cannot enforce organic standards for meat.

The Organic Trade Association has lambasted the legislation calling it an attempt to subvert the rules. Congressional authors of the organic rules from Vermont and California promised to introduce legislation to strike down the new provision. And giant poultry processor Tyson Foods released a statement declaring the provision undermines the integrity of organic standards.

Also causing a rancor in D.C. is word the subsidy limits debate will be renewed. Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley has vowed to take on fellow Republican Thad Cochran of Mississippi in an attempt to lower the subsidy cap.

Under Grassley's plan, the payment limit would drop 30 percent from 360 thousand dollars per farmer to 250 thousand dollars. Grassley also favors strict adherence to the cap, allowing no exemptions. Driving the senator's fight is concern over statistics revealing 10 percent of the farmers get 66 percent of the payments.

Cochran claims the current limit is reasonable and vows to fight Grassley ever step of the way.


Tags: agriculture chickens Congress money news organic policy politics