The Bush administration’s new farm bill, one of the more sensible pieces of legislation to emerge from this administration in quite a while, faces its first big Congressional test this week... (T)he Bush administration...proposes a strict cap on payments to individual farmers as part of a larger effort to hold down traditional subsidies... And it includes the most generous conservation program...to develop renewable fuels other than corn ethanol from farm crops. All this represents a significant break from past farm bills, which have...provided heavy subsidies for big growers of corn, wheat, soybeans, cotton and rice who are concentrated in a handful of states. Half of all farm spending, which amounts to about $12.5 billion annually, now flows to just 22 Congressional districts.
The problems with this system are legion. At home, it drives small farmers out of business and compromises the environment. Abroad, it penalizes third-world farmers and jeopardizes trade talks.