Senate Rigs Rules to Kill Farm Bill Reform

By rbaker

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WASHINGTON — "The Senate voted this morning to drive a stake in the heart of farm bill reform and to continue current federal farm subsidies largely unchanged", said Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America. "By a vote of 56-43, Senators rejected a key reform measure—the Dorgan-Grassley Payment Limits amendment—which would have established a $250,000 limit for federal farm subsidy payments to agricultural producers. Should other farm reform amendments be defeated, the Senate farm bill will largely keep intact the existing rules for payments to farmers which have often been sidestepped in creative ways leading to million dollar payments for many large, wealthy farmers."

How could the payment limits reform amendment lose despite a vote of 56-43 in favor of the amendment? Under rules agreed to by the Senate leadership, key amendments that would have reformed a broken farm safety net system required a 60 vote margin for passage.

Offenheiser criticized the Senate's decision to change the rules for this and other key reform measures. "Despite the fact that a majority of Senators voted for reforming a bloated and unfair federal farm subsidy system, no reform was adopted."

"Opponents of farm policy reform are out of step with Americans and even with the majority of their colleagues. So, they rigged the rules for this key vote to ensure that despite majority support, it would not be adopted. This decision to change the rules speaks volumes about the real commitment to change by the Senate Democratic leadership. It is all talk but little action."

"The consequences of this vote and the Senate's decision yesterday to reject the larger reform measure offered by Senators Lugar and Lautenberg, mean that US farm policy will continue to benefit the rich over the poor, both in the United States and abroad."

"Relatively few US farmers participate in farm programs. Yet, for those who do, the benefits flow largely to a small minority of producers in states whose elected officials fiercely protect their handouts from their seats on the agriculture committees in the House and the Senate. While few would have expected reform to come from these committees, it was reasonable to believe that the new Democratic leadership in the House and the Senate would have advocated reforms consistent with their message of change. Sadly, we have seen that this is not the case in either body of the Congress."

"Just as the US has rigged its trading rules to benefit large corporate farms at the expense of developing countries and farmers who struggle to survive on a dollar a day, the Senate elected to rig the rules for voting on essential farm policy reforms so that no reform was possible. Family farmers in the US, impoverished families abroad who are dependent upon agriculture to survive, and American taxpayers who foot the bill for unnecessary US farm subsidies will ultimately pay the price".

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