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Nation’s Largest Taxpayer Group Warns Farm Bill Conferees Against More Dairy-Subsidy Debacles
Adding Milk Price Cartel in Place of Existing Payments Would “Make a Bad Bill Worse”
For Immediate Release March 12, 2002
Pete Sepp, (703) 683-5700
(Alexandria, VA) – As House and Senate lawmakers met in a Conference Committee to prepare the so-called "Farm Security Act" for a final vote, the 335,000-member National Taxpayers Union (NTU) urged Conferees not to create another milk price-fixing scheme, and not to include the already hefty dairy subsidies contained in the Senate's version of the bill.
"Taxpayers shouldn't be forced to bear the costs of either the House's or the Senate's ill-conceived farm bills," said NTU Vice President for Government Affairs Al Cors, Jr. "A proposal favored by Vermont Senators Patrick Leahy and Jim Jeffords to resurrect dairy compacts nationwide or in the Northeast would only make these horrible burdens much worse. The $2 billion Senate dairy giveaway is unacceptable as well."
Last year NTU and its allies thwarted an attempt by Sens. Jeffords and Leahy to lard the $170 billion farm bill with a nationwide milk producer price guarantee modeled after the regional Northeast Dairy Compact that expired in September of 2001. The annual price tag for taxpayers and consumers would have exceeded $2.1 billion. But subsidy supporters regrouped, and inserted a provision to create a web of direct payments for dairy farmers that would cost $2 billion over 3-1/2 years instead.
"Although an amendment to strike this still-offensive policy by Senators Crapo and Bingaman subsequently failed, the close 47-51 margin of defeat caught dairy subsidy and milk tax promoters off-guard," Cors observed. "Since the House's farm bill contained no dairy compacts at all, there is no justification for a handful of Senators to hijack the Conference process and create a price cartel that neither chamber has explicitly endorsed."
In addition to working against particular dairy, sugar, peanut, honey, wool, and mohair provisions that threaten taxpayers and consumers with higher costs, NTU opposes the Farm Security Act in its entirety. The Senate version of the bill in particular would revert to the Soviet-style agricultural policies that existed prior to the "Freedom to Farm" reforms. Elements of NTU's campaign to defeat a new dairy compact could include grassroots "action alerts" to concerned citizens in Conferees' districts and states, talk radio appearances, and, if necessary, a separate effort to urge a Presidential veto of the legislation.
"A new dairy compact 'milk tax' would be a rancid substitute for the already sour subsidies contained in the farm bill," Cors concluded. "Short of trashing the Farm Security Act in its entirety, Conferees should at least save taxpayers and consumers from more unappetizing policies."
NTU is a non-profit, non-partisan organization working for lower taxes, less wasteful spending, and accountable government at all levels. Note: More information on NTU's agricultural policy stance is available upon request or online at www.ntu.org.