US Farm Bill passed despite veto

Posted by Isobel Drake on 26th May 2008

The much discussed, and widely criticized, US Farm Bill is about to become law despite being vetoed by US President George Bush last week.

President Bush vetoed the Bill on May 21, describing it as ‘inconsistent’ with the US objectives in the Doha Round of multilateral trade negotiations. The US Congress has now moved to over-ride the President’s veto.

The $290 billion Farm Bill has been widely condemned by trading partners and international aid groups alike, with the US Department of Agriculture also indicating their lack of support, proclaiming it a “farm bill in name only”.

“As more of this 1700 page spending bill becomes unveiled, we learn more about the taxpayer abuses and unsound policy that is in this bill,” Agriculture Secretary Ed Schafer said in a statement. “For more than a year, the Administration worked with Congress in an effort to develop a good farm bill that the President could sign. We worked to craft a measure that brought real reform to farm programs while working to protect the safety net for rural America.”

“Yet Congress decided to go in another direction, and sent the President a bill that grossly overspends in typical Washington, DC fashion,” Mr Schafer added. “This veto is the right thing to do, and Congress should support the President’s decision.”
The Australian Government has also outlined their disappointment with the bill, with Minister for Trade Simon Crean and Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke claiming the Bill would guarantee US taxpayer-funded farm subsidies for the next five years.

Mr Crean said he was frustrated with the way the Congress had looked at the domestic politics rather than looking at the bigger picture but was happy to see the President stand against the legislation. “I’m pleased by the President’s commitment to the cause of liberalisation. Through his veto he has clearly signalled that he wants to keep the pressure on global reform, which augurs well for Doha,” Mr Crean said. “Reducing trade-distorting farm subsidies would benefit producers and consumers around the world.”

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Tony Burke said the Rudd Government are simply trying to get a level playing field for Australian producers. “At a time when the world food shortage is front-of-mind, it is disappointing that some of the wealthiest nations are increasing their use of trade-distorting subsidies,” Mr Burke said. “We are particularly concerned about the proposed levy on imported dairy products, which would promote US consumption of liquid milk products, as opposed to cheese which is imported from Australia. The Australian agriculture sector has shown great innovation in boosting efficiency and productivity without relying on taxpayer-funded assistance.”

“This is a missed opportunity by Congress to reform US agricultural policies, particularly given the current high crop prices and good producer returns,” Mr Burke concluded.