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USDA Farm Bill Forums are for Taxpayers, Consumers, and Small Business Owners Too, Citizen Group Says
For Immediate Release August 19, 2005
(Alexandria, VA) -- On the heels of the U.S. Agriculture Department's announcement of more Farm Bill Forums to be held shortly in Alabama, Alaska, and New Mexico, the 350,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) sent out an alert to its "e-list" subscribers encouraging them to attend these "Farm Bill Listening Tour" events, or post comments on the government's website. According to the non-partisan citizen group, officials should be sure they are "listening" to all the Americans who have a stake in the tens of billions spent every year on federal farm programs.
"When Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns said that the 2007 Farm Bill would 'affect America's entire agricultural community,' he ought to have included the hundreds of millions of Americans who will pick up the tab for this legislation," said NTU President John Berthoud. "We're here to remind taxpayers that a bloated Farm Bill costs every household thousands of dollars in higher taxes and inflated food prices, as well as impacts the lives of workers throughout our economy."
According to an NTU fact sheet on current federal agricultural policy, since passage of the 2002 Farm Bill direct payments have grown to more than $20 billion per year -- up from an average of $9 billion in the early 1990s. Even as direct payments increase, these programs raise costs to consumers embedded in farm products by working at cross-purposes. For example, farmers receive Milk Income Loss Contract payments to keep producing when prices are low (meaning there is likely an oversupply of milk), and then qualify for government Dairy Price Support buyouts of the extra milk.
Berthoud pointed out that in addition harming consumers, artificially-high food prices also cut into the already-narrow profit margins of small businesses such as restaurants or grocery stores. "It is hard to imagine a group of people who are not harmed by inflated food prices, except perhaps for the big corporate farms that reap their profits from taxpayers' pockets," he said. "Currently, the richest 10 percent of farm-subsidy recipients gobble up almost two-thirds of all government payments, while the bottom 80 percent receive less than one-fifth of the total."
In addition to e-mail alerts and Farm Bill Forums, NTU plans on mobilizing taxpayers for agricultural policy reform through a variety of initiatives, including talk radio shows, telephone banks, and (as legislation takes shape) grassroots lobbying of lawmakers. "When drafting the next Farm Bill, Congress must pay closer attention to the national interest, and that means the farmers, producers, workers, consumers, and small business owners who comprise America's taxpayers," Berthoud concluded. "Together, we can achieve legislation that unleashes the economic potential of farmers and respects their tradition of fiscally responsible values."
NTU was founded in 1969 to work for lower taxes, smaller government, and more accountability from elected officials at all levels. The group members, who include many farmers, ranchers, and rural residents, have been involved in numerous federal and state agricultural issues. Note: For NTU's Farm Bill fact sheet and more information on the group's agricultural policy work, visit www.ntu.org.