Today Acting Agriculture Secretary Chuck Conner hosted a conference call with bloggers. The Presbyterian Hunger Program (USA)/foodandfaithblog.org was invited and I ended up being one of a handful of people talking with Sec. Conner.
The Agriculture Secretary reiterated the administration’s stance on taxes and “budget gimmicks” in the farm bill. They are non-negotiable. They also have issues with the lack of reform in regards to payment limits, but say the number one priority that needs to be dealt with are the tax and budget issues.
As has been discussed for most of 2007 and in recent publications, the administration is threatening a veto of the status-quo farm bills that have been passed by the House and Senate. Today, Sec. Conner told us that he and the president’s other advisor’s would unanimously recommend a veto if the tax and budget issues are not addressed.
This has led to a situation where there is an opportunity for some reform measures to come out of conference. The administration is in active talks with the House and Senate Ag Committee Chairs and reforms could happen in conference that would allow the president to sign the bill.
But, unfortunately . . .
there is also the opportunity for a long extension of the current bill. This could wipe out gains in conservation programs, the livestock/competition title and significant gains in the nutrition program.
Not everyone thinks a veto is likely. Senator Mitch McConnell, R-KY, the Minority Leader, has been quoted as saying he thinks it is a negotiating tactic; that in the end a conference bill get a Presidential signature.
So, stay tuned to foodandfaithblog.org! We still might have some work ahead of us if Congress is to be convinced to do the “heavy-lifting” in conference that it will take to get a new farm bill.