- May 22, ’13 How the Decline of the Traditional Workplace Is Changing Our Cities
- May 22, ’13 Whey Too Much: Greek Yogurt’s Dark Side
- May 22, ’13 The Secret Donors Behind the Center for American Progress and Other Think Tanks
- May 21, ’13 In defense of digital freedom
- May 21, ’13 Surveillance and the Internet of things
Jun 17, ’08 10:04 AM
Jun 11, ’08 1:19 PM
via email, in response to my message:
Dear Mr. Zellmer,
Thank you for contacting me to share you concerns about the Farm Bill. I appreciate hearing from you. While I was disappointed by the lack of reform to the commodity programs in the Farm Bill, significant improvements were made in other areas of the bill to assist small and medium farmers.
As you may know, the House approved the final version of the Farm Bill on May 14, 2008, by a vote of 318-106. The Senate passed it the following day by a vote of 85-15. The President vetoed the Farm Bill on May 21, 2008. The House voted to override the veto the same day, and the Senate the next day. I was pleased to support both the Farm Bill itself and the motion to override the President’s veto. The bill became law on May 22, 2008, although an enrollment error meant that the Trade and Food Aid Title was not included. The House and Senate have passed a new version of the bill to correct the error.
For instance, the bill restores the payment rate for the Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program and, for the first time, factors in the cost of production for farmers. MILC is vital for Wisconsin’s dairy farmers, and is an extremely responsible program as it kicks in when times are tough and covers only a certain amount of milk. Thus, it targets small and medium farms rather than subsidizing the expansion of large farms.
The bill also makes significant improvements to nutrition programs, including Food Stamps and the Emergency Food Assistance Program, totaling more than $10 billion over the five-year life of the bill and accounting for about three-quarters of total spending in the bill. Other positive provisions of the Farm Bill include a new livestock title, which contains important competition provisions and over $4 billion for agriculture conservation programs. The bill also provides more funding for smaller-scale programs such as the Community Food Program, Value-Added Producer Grants, and the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Program.
I was also able to have several amendments accepted to the bill on a range of issues important to Wisconsin farmers. I was particularly pleased to have an amendment accepted to strengthen the office for small farmers at USDA.
I share the disappointment I have heard from some Wisconsinites that the reforms in the Farm Bill don’t go far enough. I supported a number of amendments to reform the bill when the Senate considered it in December 2007, including an amendment offered by Senators Byron Dorgan (ND) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to cap subsidy payments to the largest producers. I also filed an amendment with Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) to trim direct payments. In addition, I supported and cosponsored an amendment offered by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and John Sununu (R-NH) to trim government subsidies to crop insurance companies, and voted in favor of an amendment offered by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) that would have prohibited farm support payments to wealthy individuals. I was disappointed that these amendments failed. The final bill does reform the commodity support programs by modestly trimming direct payments and reducing the adjusted gross income eligibility cap, but more reforms are needed.
To read my full statement on the bill, please visit here. While we may not always agree, I look forward to hearing from you in the future.
Speaking of our politicians, Bruce Murphy notes some special interest assistance from Senator Kohl and link to this New York Times article:
Senator Herb Kohl, Democrat of Wisconsin, persuaded the Appropriations Committee and the full Senate to accept legislative language benefiting Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay.
The hospital’s lobbyists include Theodore H. Bornstein, a former chief of staff for Mr. Kohl, and Bill Broydrick, whose Web site quotes a description of him as “the state’s No. 1 super lobbyist.”
The Kohl provision would allow the Green Bay hospital to expand by building a new cardiac catheterization laboratory.
The issue often puts lawmakers in the awkward position of having to choose between doctors and hospitals.
Critics say that when doctors have a financial stake in a hospital, they have an incentive to send patients there because they not only receive professional fees for their services, but also can share in hospital profits and see the value of their investment increase. Such arrangements can lead to greater use of hospital services and higher costs for Medicare and other insurers, say the critics, including many in Congress.
My email to Senator Kohl:
Dear Senator Kohl:
I hope this message finds you well.
I am writing to express my disappointment at your support for the “Aurora BayCare Medical Center in Green Bay” carve out in what I believe to be upcoming health care legislation.
Such narrow special interest treatment is at odds with your “Nobody’s Senator but Yours” mantra.
These carve outs simply increase costs for middle America.
I am disappointed.
Jun 6, ’08 12:07 PM
I received an email from Senator Kohl’s office regarding my recent Farm Bill Vote (he voted for it) correspondence:
Dear Mr. Zellmer:
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me about the 2008 Farm Bill. I appreciate hearing from you and apologize for the delay in my response.
As you know, Congress recently overrode President Bush’s veto of the 2008 Farm Bill and I supported that effort. Though it may not be perfect, I believe this farm bill puts our rural communities first and provides the means to enhance the quality of life for people in Wisconsin and throughout the nation. It
provides substantial improvements to federal nutrition programs, increased commitment to conservation, and a significant investment in renewable energy.
I was particularly pleased that the bill continues the national dairy assistance program I helped create in the 2002 Farm Bill. The Milk Income Loss Contract (MILC) program is a way to provide dairy farmers support when prices plummet. And when prices are strong, the program goes dormant. The Farm Bill extends the MILC program through fiscal year 2012, increases the quantity of per-farm eligible milk to more accurately reflect trends in the dairy industry, and restores the original 45% payment rate beginning in 2009. Moreover, it includes a ‘feed cost adjuster’ which acknowledges the tremendous challenges many dairy producers face because of high feed prices.
The Farm Bill will also help millions of low-income Americans who struggle to put food on the table each day. It includes nearly $7.8 billion for improvements to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly the Food Stamp Program, and $1.26 billion for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which helps supply food banks. The SNAP will see a number of important reforms that include an increase in the minimum benefit (which had not been updated for 30 years) and changes to encourage retirement and education savings among program participants.
Jun 4, ’08 8:50 AM
I am writing to express my disappointment in your vote for the pork laden farm bill.
Similar to the support given for a 5% large corporation offshore tax rate a few years ago, this legislation benefits only the rich on the backs of middle class taxpayers.
I am surprised and disappointed.
Much more on the farm bill here.
Wisconsin Democrat Ron Kind, to his credit, voted against the farm bill:
“Today Congress squandered the best opportunity in decades to reform our wasteful, outdated subsidy system.
“We need a Farm Bill, but we need the right kind of farm bill. Let me be clear: This bill is not a reform bill. It is not even the illusion of reform. Continuing to send unlimited subsidies to millionaires is not reform. Creating a new disaster entitlement program is not reform. And setting ourselves up for billions in unaccounted spending is not reform. The president was right to veto it.
“As families kick off their summer vacations this weekend facing the highest gas prices ever, skyrocketing food costs, stagnant paychecks and a lagging economy, I urge them to ask their member of Congress how they could justify sending unlimited taxpayer subsidies to agribusinesses and wealthy landowners making up to $2.5 million a year in profit.
Jun 3, ’08 2:45 PM
Is a worthwhile read, particularly for the history of our relations with mainland China. Jonathan Beard posted a brief review:
When Max Hastings chose “Retribution” as the title for his overview of the last two years of World War II in Asia, it is obvious that he had Japan in mind. This is the story of Japan reaping the whirlwind for the winds it had sown since 1937 in China, and since Pearl Harbor in 1941. But retribution also means a distribution of rewards and punishments, and it is here that Hastings stands out: this is the most judgmental work of military history I have ever read. Hastings passes out a little praise–he greatly admires William Slim for his generalship in Burma, and has kind words for Chester Nimitz–but his forte is denunciations. The most consistent target of his wrath is Douglas MacArthur, but his condemnation of William Halsey for his performance at Leyte Gulf is harsh as well. He also devotes an entire (short) chapter to condemning the Australian people, military, labor movement and leadership for their performance in the last stages of the war. But these are just the controversial denunciations. He reserves most of his anger for Japan, especially its leaders, from Hirohito down to individual officers, accusing most of them of combining casual cruelty with moral cowardice. But the Japanese are not alone: Hastings condemns all the Western powers for their patronizing, racist treatment of Asian allies, and, on the other side, sees both Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao Zedong as tyrants lacking human feelings for their own people.