Cash Cows

  • Share
  • Read Later
WASHINGTON, D. C.: As Congress quietly returned to work this week after a three-week vacation, the House advanced its version of the "Freedom to Farm" bill, a major piece of agriculture legislation with the potential to roll back crop-subsidy programs born in the Great Depression. The bill would wean wheat, corn and cotton farmers off the current system of crop supports by replacing it with a seven-year program of declining, fixed payments. Subsidies of peanuts and sugar remain in place, to the chagrin of some members on both sides of the aisle. House leaders have limited the number of amendments to speed final House passage, but TIME's Karen Tumulty reports from Washington that the House bill is so different from the version passed February 7 by the Senate, the conference committee could spend many weeks hammering out the details. "If it were to play out as advertised, it would fundamentally change the programs," Tumulty says. "The problem is that in the first two years, some of the farmers are actually paid more." Dairy farmers in particular make out very well under the House legislation, which requires milk to be thickened with dairy solids. Farm law is complex, but California Rep. Bill Baker told Tumulty: "The consumer is going to damn well understand it when the price of milk goes up 50 cents."