WASHINGTON – With Congress overturning a presidential veto, U.S. Senator Pete Domenici today said he is disappointed that a new Farm Bill will become law with provisions that work against New Mexico’s dairy and agriculture interests.
The Senate voted 80-14 to override President Bush’s veto of the Farm Bill (HR.2419, the Food, Conservation and Energy Act of 2008), a five-year $290 billion bill on federal agriculture and nutrition policies. The President’s veto is the second on the Farm Bill measure and the second time Congress has overridden a veto on the measure, which could cost over $600 billion over 10 years.
“I am disappointed that Congress was unable or unwilling to produce a Farm Bill that better fits modern evolution of agriculture, conservation and nutrition in this country. Instead it clings to old policies and in the case of New Mexico’s dairy and peanut sectors makes them worse,” Domenici said.
“Now that this bill is on the books, our dairy producers and agriculture sector will be challenged to work within a framework that will make it more difficult to be competitive,” he said.
Domenic listed reasons for opposing the farm bill, including the expansion of the Milk Income Loss Contract program (MILC). MILC subsidy payments to milk producers in less productive regions of the country will be higher than those offered to New Mexico producers. There are 172 dairy farms in New Mexico today that contribute $1.02 billion directly and $2.6 billion indirectly to the state’s economy.
Domenici is critical of the new bill for dropping a peanut storage program approved by the Senate. The loss of this program will cost peanut growers up to an additional $50 to $60 per ton, which represents at least $74 million to peanut producers in New Mexico.
Despite his opposition to the overall bill, Domenici acknowledged his support for expanded funding for federal nutrition programs (food stamps and the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC), as well as broader support for specialty crops. The final bill provides increased funding for research and promotion of specialty crops, which in New Mexico could aid the production of chile, pecans, pistachios and some fruits and vegetables.
The Farm Bill agreement also includes Domenici’s Jornada Experimental Range Transfer Act (S.366), which was accepted in the Senate as an amendment to the bill. This provision would permanently allot up to 1,000 acres of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service (USDA-ARS) property north of Las Cruces to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park.
“This is one aspect of this bill that makes me happy. The transfer of this USDA property to the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park will have many benefits for years to come,” Domenici said.
The Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park provides hands-on science education to as many as 14,000 K-12 students and more than 5,000 adults. It provides classroom presentations, field trips, schoolyard ecology projects and teacher workshops.