President officially vetoes farm bill

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This morning President Bush vetoed the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008. The bill passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 318-106 and passed the Senate with a vote of 81-15 last week. Each chamber needs a two-thirds majority to override a veto. Reports indicate leaders have said they will bring the bill back to the floor for an override vote today.

Over 1,000 groups called on Congress today to override the President's farm bill veto. The coalition of 1,054 organizations surpasses the 557 groups which called on Congress to pass the farm bill last week. The coalition represents farm, conservation, commodity, specialty crop, nutrition, anti-hunger and consumer groups, cooperatives, religious organizations and others.

Deputy Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner said this afternoon the President vetoed the bill because the bill fails to reform farm programs at time when farm income and crop prices are setting records. He reiterated the Administration's concerns with increased spending of $20 billion over baseline, payment limits, special earmarks, budget gimmicks and timing shifts in payments and ACRE - the revenue assurance program.

Conner acknowledged preventing the veto override would be an "uphill climb" and said the Administration continues to educate members of Congress about details of the bill. He said the initial passage of the bill was less than 24 hours after the official bill language became available and he hopes new information now available brings light to the "folly" that went into preparing the bill.  

In President Bush's veto message, he said, "At a time of high food prices and record farm income, this bill lacks program reform and fiscal discipline." He added, "When commodity prices are at record highs, it is irresponsible to increase government subsidy rates for 15 crops, subsidize additional crops, and provide payments that further distort markets. Instead of better targeting farm programs, this bill eliminates the existing payment limit on marketing loan subsidies." He also criticized the uncapped revenue guarantees that could cost billions of dollars more than originally advertised, an argument the National Corn Growers Association and American Farmland Trust dispute.  

President Bush said although it rare for a stand-alone farm bill not to receive the President's signature, it's not without precedent stating in 1956 when President Eisenhower stood firmly on principle citing high crop subsidies and too much government control of farm programs among the reasons for his veto.

President Eisenhower wrote in his veto message, "Bad as some provisions of this bill are, I would have signed it if in total it could be interpreted as sound and good for farmers and the nation."

Bush's veto message said, "For similar reasons, I am vetoing the bill before me today."

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