- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 26, 2007

House Republicans say the $250 billion farm bill being debated by Congress this week threatens the jobs of up to 5 million American workers.

Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said yesterday that new taxes on foreign-owned companies with U.S. subsidiaries to pay for $4 billion in food stamps and nutrition programs will adversely affect American workers.

“To attempt to impose this sort of one-size-fits-all tax increase so cavalierly and capriciously, without hearings, without a markup, without any sort of bipartisan discussion, is an insult to the Ways and Means Committee and the House,” said Rep. Jim McCrery of Louisiana, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee.

The tax would affect companies such as Honda North America Inc., Food Lion LLC, Nestle, Bayer, BASF and T-Mobile.

Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin C. Peterson, Minnesota Democrat, said the Bush administration had “failed rural America and all Americans,” and that the measure had the support of advocates for agriculture, conservation, nutrition and renewable energy.

The White House threatened to veto the measure, saying it includes excessive subsidies for wealthy farmers. The administration has called for limiting subsidies to about 38,000 farmers whose income exceeds $200,000.

The bill calls for banning subsidies to about 7,000 farmers whose adjusted gross income is more than $1 million a year.

Farm bills have long been the subject of debate because critics say they provide unnecessary government subsidies to wealthy agricultural companies while neglecting independent, lower-income farmers who are in greater need of financial assistance.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, called the bill “a good first step toward reform.” Most Democrats and several Republicans are expected to vote for its passage.

“We just sort of hold our noses and look the other way,” said a senior Republican aide, who acknowledged that the farm bill passed by Republicans in 2002 was the most expensive to date.

An opponent of the bill, Rep. Ron Kind, Wisconsin Democrat, has teamed up with budget stalwart Jeff Flake, Arizona Republican, on an amendment to remove some of what they call wasteful spending. Four other Democrats and three Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors of the Fairness in Farm and Food Policy Amendment.

“They failed to address the real problems with our current farm programs,” said Mr. Kind. “They direct billions in taxpayer dollars to a few but very wealthy producers in a handful of congressional districts at the expense of programs that truly help family farms.”

The House is scheduled to vote on the measure today. The Senate will take it up in September.

c This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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