The Bush administration threatened to veto the House Agriculture Committee’s 2007 farm bill before the full House was scheduled to begin debate and vote on the legislation today (July 26.)

The veto threat came on a day when there were signs the bipartisan agreement put together by ag committee Chairman Collin Peterson was beginning to unravel over a proposed tax increase and other issues.

Peterson, the Minnesota Democrat who has traveled the country for the last six months listening to farmers and other organizations, lashed back at the White House after a spokesman said the president would not sign the bill because it exceeds his budget recommendations.

“Today, the Bush administration failed rural America and all Americans by threatening to veto the 2007 farm bill passed by the House Agriculture Committee,” Peterson said in a statement issued yesterday (July 25).

Noting the committee farm bill is supported by a “broad spectrum of agriculture, conservation, nutrition and renewable energy advocates,” Peterson said the legislation is a “carefully crafted compromise that includes substantial reforms and new investments in programs that matter, including fruit and vegetable production, nutrition programs, conservation and renewable energy.

“This is not the first time the Bush administration has turned its back on American agriculture and rural America,” he said. “They repeatedly threatened to veto disaster assistance for agriculture, which the Democratic leadership passed this year. The administration also vigorously opposed the 2002 farm bill, which Secretary Johanns and others now praise as ‘the right bill at the right time.’”

The ag committee chairman accused the administration of political posturing and failing to pursue and achieve compromise on any number of issues, including the farm bill. “The House Agriculture Committee put together a balanced, fiscally responsible farm bill, and I am confident that the House of Representatives will stand with us in supporting this important legislation.”

The House was scheduled to begin debate on the farm bill today (July 26). While most farm organizations and agribusiness groups support the ag committee bill, Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., were expected to offer their Food and Agriculture Risk Management for the 21st Century Act as an amendment to the bill.

As of Wednesday evening, more than 110 prospective farm bill amendments had been filed. The House Rules Committee was meeting to determine the number of amendments that could be offered and the amount of time set aside for debating the five-year farm bill.

House ag committee Republicans, meanwhile, issued a statement saying they would stand against a proposed tax increase that could be used to offset increased nutrition spending in the farm bill.

“Earlier this week, my Republican colleagues were prepared to support the farm bill because we understand it needs bipartisan support; however, today, the farm bill has taken a very different form and is no longer about American agriculture but something far more political,” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.

“Due to the inclusion of the tax increases, we are prepared to vote against this bill,” said Goodlatte, ranking member on the committee, who appeared at a Tuesday press briefing aimed at drumming up support for the legislation.

Goodlatte said that, while the committee approved bipartisan farm bill language the week of July 17, the tax provisions were added to the bill after committee action without consideration or input from Republicans.

“After the agriculture committee passed a bipartisan bill, the bill was hijacked by forces outside of our control and the tax increase proposals were introduced without any input from the Republican members of the committee,” he noted. “Despite repeated assurances that the $4 billion in offsets would not come from tax increases, here we are looking at tax increases as the funding mechanism of choice employed by the Democratic leadership.”

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