Reformers to Drive Next Farm Bill Fight

US - While other prophets and forecasters fill the first week of January -- and endless inches of newspaper space -- with predictions of what will happen this year, permit me 600 or so words to predict what won't happen in 2008.
calendar icon 7 January 2008
clock icon 2 minute read
First, let's get the tough calls out the way. The Chicago Bears will not win the Super Bowl and the University of Illinois will not win the Rose Bowl.

Sure, both forecasts are blindingly obvious today, but neither was a month or so ago when I offered them to my very smart office mate, Maggie the Aggie Dog.

Second, I will not embark on another two-week binge of butter, beef and beverage like the one just (successfully) completed until, oh, a week or so before Christmas 2008.

Third, the 2007 Farm Bill, when completed in 2008, will be the last commodity-based, farm group-driven Farm Bill.

Indeed, the ever-narrowing coalition of big farm groups-big agbiz barely beat back the ever-broadening trinity of food, faith and consumer groups in 2007 that demanded more reform and more accountability in farm policy. The reformers, not farmers,

Also, the Senate's inclusion of a meatpacker ban on cattle feeding prior to slaughter in its Farm Bill likely will not be in the final version that Senate and House conferees will hammer out when they return from their four-week winter nap.

Bold prediction, eh?

Not really. In 26 years of reporting on agriculture I've yet to see the packer-lackey (to quote Iowa Republican Sen. Charles Grassley) lobby -- livestock groups whose nests are well-feathered with meatpacker cash -- get beaten in the Washington influence game.

While the giant meatpackers uniformly hate the ban, Congress won't toss it for that reason alone. So, enter the vote-roping, packer-owned cowboys of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association who are, in fact, arguing that the ban will be costly ("billions, sir") to the current market-strangling "alliances" between packers and cattlemen.

Source: Dubuque Telegraph Herald
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