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Progressive farm bill unlikely

The farm bill that's going to come out of the Senate Agriculture Committee is not going to be as progressive as Tom Harkin (D-IA), the committee chairman, had hoped it was going to be. He and Senator Charles Grassley - the Senior Senator from Iowa - fought for a reduction in the maximum farm subsidy payment, but met stiff resistance from others on the committee. Harkin as quoted in a Boston Globe article:

Senator Grassley and I see eye-to-eye on wanting stronger payment limitations, but a number of members of the Senate Agriculture Committee strongly disagree with us. It's clear we need bipartisan cooperation to report a new farm bill from the Committee and get it enacted still this year.

So I can't say I will be fully satisfied with what is in the bill on payment limitations, yet as chairman I have to recognize the critical need to complete a bill soon for the good of farmers and rural communities in Iowa and across the nation.

Harkin had hoped to reduce the maximum subsidy from $360,000 to $250,000, and remove some of the loopholes that allow even higher payments. Barack Obama, incidentally, released a rural plan this week called Rural Leadership for Rural America, and in it he calls for reducing subsidies to $250,000 when he's president. It's a broad, comprehensive plan, and it's actually kind of exciting. It's worth a read. A couple of other things in the plan:

Bring Farms to Schools: Barack Obama will support providing locally grown, healthy foods to students as a part of the school meals program. This will both reduce childhood obesity and grow vibrant rural economies, supporting community-based food systems and strengthening family farms.

Energy Efficiency: Cost effective energy efficiency should take priority over the construction of new generation facilities. Barack Obama will set a bold national goal of reducing the energy intensity of our economy 50% by 2030.

Better Water Systems: Rural areas often depend on federal funding to maintain their water and sewer systems. Recently, however, budget cuts and reduced grant funds have combined to cut down on the number of new projects. Barack Obama will ensure these programs are adequately funded.

Universal Healthcare: A basic problem facing rural America is access to affordable quality health care. Barack Obama is committed to signing universal health legislation by the end of his first term[.]

He plans to propose legislation supporting his Rural Leadership plan in the first 100 days of his first term.

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