Goodlatte Under Pressure

Brent Finnegan -- February 22nd, 2008

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, who sits as the ranking Republican on the House Agriculture Committee, has found himself at the middle of a recent debate on Capitol Hill between the farm lobbyists who want federal subsidies, and President Bush, who says he may veto any farm bill over $6 billion.

Goodlatte, along with House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, upset many farm lobbying groups when they proposed a $6 billion farm bill, in accordance with Bush’s wishes. Complicating matters is the fact that the “skimpy” House bill is now up against the more generous Senate farm bill.

The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee say they don’t buy arguments that more than $6 billion has to be cut from the 2008 farm bill so it can pass muster with the Bush administration […] A group of 38 farm organizations sent a letter to [Goodlatte and Peterson], saying the House Ag Committee proposal was “seriously under-funded” and proposed cuts to the commodity programs were “excessive.”

One might imagine that if it angers big farm lobbyists, it must be good for smaller family farms. But that depends on who you ask. According to one editorial, they cut funding to the wrong programs:

… Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, talked last week about a plan that would cut some of the new spending while apparently continuing current subsidies to most big producers of large commodities such as corn, cotton and rice. And, in what looks like an attempt to postpone any possibility of wider reforms, their plan involves a 10-year renewal of the farm bill, instead of the normal five years […] As taxpayer and environmental groups have argued, current farm subsidies are unnecessarily costly. The money could be better spent on real safety-net programs for farmers, expansion of food stamp coverage and better conservation programs, which are critical to protecting salmon-bearing waters. Jim Lyons, an Oxfam America vice president and former agriculture undersecretary during the Clinton administration, noted the push to protect wealthy farm interests is particularly hypocritical at a time when commodity prices are rising and Americans’ economic prospects are falling.

Of course, try telling that to the cotton producer’s lobby. From The Hill; “House agriculture leaders trying to fend off a veto stripped a critical [cotton] subsidy and a key storage payment provision from the farm bill approved by the House.”

For his part, Goodlatte says that the cuts proposed in the House bill aren’t set in stone. “It will not work if you ask them to tell us everything you’d like to have in the bill and then add up and see what that number is,” Goodlatte says. “You have to start with a number and then write a farm bill around that number. We did it; we’ve shown it can be done at $6 billion.”

From Politico:

In a joint news conference, Peterson and Goodlatte insisted they weren’t wedded to the details of their plan but said the Senate must come forward in the coming days with a realistic spending total that can be accepted by the administration. Absent some agreement this week on a budget target, Peterson said there was little chance of completing a bill by March 15, and neither he nor Pelosi, he said, would support a further extension of the current farm programs.

That would mean reverting to so-called permanent law or the underlying system of often more generous price and loan supports that existed in the late 1930s and the 1940s, prior to modern farm bills.

Rep. Goodlatte is facing a Democratic challenge in the 6th Congressional District this year, likely from Sam Rasoul or Drew Richardson.

4 Responses to “Goodlatte Under Pressure”

  1. Adam Sharp says:

    Press Release from the Richardson campaign:

    More Awareness, Preparation Needed to Protect Farms:
    Retired FBI Agent Says Goodlatte Could Do More to Prevent Terrorist Attacks

    Staunton, VA – Rep. Robert “Bob” Goodlatte (R-Roanoke) could do more to educate Shenandoah Valley farmers and residents about the threat of an agricultural bioterrorist attack on America’s farms, a retired FBI agent and Democratic congressional candidate said Monday.

    Drew Richardson (D-Greenville) made his remarks following an agricultural conference held Monday at Shenandoah Caverns hosted by Rep. Goodlatte. Richardson commended Goodlatte for hosting conferences that allowed local farmers and others to interact with their congressman.

    “However, having attended a similar conference a year ago in Staunton, and hearing the topics discussed at this year’s event, I notice a recurring and glaring omission in the agenda — the risk and consequences of agricultural bioterrorism to our nation and our Valley,” Richardson said.

    “By engaging in a war in Iraq with no end in sight, begun through poor evidence analysis and an unjust preemptive strike, I believe we have, in the process, shortchanged our nation’s homeland security. Although our human population is of chief concern, terrorists will likely not hesitate to take aim at relatively soft economic targets to include our nation’s livestock and crops.”

    Richardson, a former scientist in the FBI Laboratory, spent 25 years at the FBI working on various criminal, national security and counter-terrorist investigations. He earned a Ph.D. in physiology in 1991 through study at The George Washington Medical Center.

    Richardson is a co-editor of Food and Agricultural Security, published in 1999 by the New York Academy of Sciences. This book addresses many aspects of a bioterrorist attack against agricultural crops and livestock.

    “Combinations of targets and biological agents to be utilized are limited only by the imagination, expertise and resolve of the would-be terrorist,” Richardson said. “We must make our farmers and other citizens aware of agricultural bioterrorism, of what they can do to quickly recognize and limit the consequences of an attack and we must better focus our governmental resources in preparation for this looming threat.”

    Richardson lives in rural Augusta County and is seeking the Democratic nomination in Virginia’s 6th Congressional District. The nominating convention is May 24 in Lexington.


  2. Chris says:

    Drew Richardson recently telephoned me: a live voice, calling this stranger as he canvassed the district. I asked his main reason for running; he cited the economy and its growing disparities. I asked what he thinks of torture; he is strongly against it. His accessibility impressed me, as has the enthusiasm and diligent work of Sam Rasoul. I am not certain which of these candidates is more electable, or what if any policy differences they have, though either would offer a refreshing change to Goodlatte in that regard. In the last Congressional election, for which no Democrat ran, the combined votes for two independent, progressive candidates totalled around 25 percent, even though neither received any significant publicity or advertising support. Yes, at last, Goodlatte is under pressure!

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