Polling Shows Strong Majority for Farm Bill Reform ? Not Status Quo ? In Freshmen Dem Districts

By lmcfarlane

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Washington, DC — Despite claims that rural freshmen Democrats are vulnerable without continued commodity subsidies, a poll conducted by Lake Research Partners on behalf of Oxfam America shows a strong majority of voters in freshmen districts actually support reform over the status quo.

On the eve of a floor vote on the 2007 Farm Bill in the House of Representatives, a survey of likely voters in 42 freshmen (43 districts, including GA-12) Democratic districts shows that more than six in 10 voters in those districts support reform of the Farm Bill and a commodity payment system that currently provides few benefits to small family farmers who need the help most.

In fact, the Lake Research Poll reveals a number oputs freshmen at risk:

MYTH:
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Voters in freshmen districts believe it’s important to maintain the current commodity payment system.
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FACT: VOTERS IN FRESHMEN DISTRICTS BELIEVE THE FARM BILL NEEDS REFORM. A solid majority (61%) of likely voters believes the Farm Bill is in need of either “major reform” (33%) or “minor reform” (28%). Only 5 percent are content with the status quo. Thirty-three percent are unsure about reforming the Farm Bill.
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MYTH: Voters in freshmen districts believe the current Farm Bill helps small family farmers.
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FACT: VOTERS IN FRESHMAN DISTRICTS STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT THE FARM BILL DISADVANTAGES SMALL FARMS COMPARED TO LARGE CORPORATE FARMS. Nearly 8-in-10 (79%) agree that the current Farm Bill puts small farms at a disadvantage compared to large corporate farms (64% agree strongly). Just 8 percent disagree.
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MYTH: Maintaining the commodity payment system is more important to voters than funding for other farm bill programs like conservation, nutrition and energy alternatives.
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FACT: VOTERS BELIEVE THAT CONSERVATION, ALTERNATIVE ENERGY, AND HEALTHY FOOD ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECTS OF FARM BILL REFORM. When asked how “important” specific reforms of the Farm Bill are to voters personally—with 10 meaning “very important” and 0 meaning “not at all important”—developing renewable sources of energy (8.4 out of 10), conservation programs (framed in the survey as clean water, preservation of farmland, and protection of wildlife habitats) (8.3), and developing and marketing healthier food crops (8.0) top the list of reforms. Roughly similar percentages believe these reforms are “good ideas” (8.4, 8.3, and 8.2, respectively).
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MYTH: Voters want Congress to provide funding for conservation, alternative energy, nutrition and other reform priorities from sources other than reduced commodity payments.
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FACT: VOTERS STRONGLY SUPPORT REFORMING THE FARM BILL AND SHIFTING TAXPAYER SUBSIDIES IN ORDER TO PAY FOR CONSERVATION, DEVELOPMENT OF RENEWABLE ENERGY, HEALTHIER FOOD CHOICES, RURAL DEVELOPMENT, AND ANTI-HUNGER PROGRAMS. Solid majorities (62%) support efforts to reform the Farm Bill along these lines.

“Faced with the facts – namely that a status quo farm bill is the least desirable option and that nearly two- thirds of likely voters in freshmen Districts want farm bill reform – will the Congress continue to squander the opportunity to bring about real reform to the current Farm Bill . . . reform their constituents are demanding,” asked Jim Lyons, vice president for policy and communications for Oxfam America?

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