St. Petersburg Times Online: News of Florida
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
  • Memo to schools: Watch bottom line
  • Governor puts a soft spin on $1-billion budget cuts
  • Secretary of State Harris to run for U.S. House
  • Florida lawmakers lobbied on farm bill
  • Changing standard tests students

  • From the state wire

  • Hurricane Jeanne appears on track to hit Florida's east coast
  • Rumor mill working overtime after Florida hurricanes
  • Developments associated with Hurricanes Ivan and Jeanne
  • Four killed in Panhandle plane crash were on Ivan charity mission
  • Hurricane Frances caused estimated $4.4 billion in insured damage
  • Disabled want more handicapped-accessible voting machines
  • USF forces administrators to resign over test score changes
  • Man's death at Universal Studios ruled accidental
  • State child welfare workers in Miami fail to do background checks
  • Hurricane Jeanne heads toward southeast U.S. coast
  • Hurricane Jeanne spurs more anxiety for storm-weary Floridians
  • Mistrial declared in case where teen was target of racial "joke"
  • Panhandle utility wants sewer plant moved to higher ground
  • State employee arrested on theft, bribery charges
  • Homestead house fire kills four children, one adult
  • Pierson leader tries to cut off relief to local fern cutters
  • Florida's high court rules Terri's law unconstitutional
  • Jacksonville students punished for putting stripper pole in dorm
  • FEMA handling nearly 600,000 applications for help
  • Man who killed wife, niece, self also killed mother in 1971
  • Producer sues city over lead ball fired by Miami police
  • Tourism suffers across Florida after pummeling by hurricanes
  • Key dates in the life of Terri Schiavo
  • An excerpt from the unanimous ruling in the Schiavo case
  • Four confirmed dead after small plane crash in Panhandle
  • Correction: Disney-Cruise Line story
  • tampabay.com

    printer version

    Florida lawmakers lobbied on farm bill

    By JOHN BALZ

    © St. Petersburg Times,
    published October 3, 2001


    WASHINGTON -- In years past, Florida lawmakers cast votes on the farm bill knowing that their decisions would yield the state little but cost it less. This year, however, they are paying attention to one vote in particular that could bring their farmers an additional $500-million in conservation benefits -- but at a possible political consequence.

    The No. 1 agricultural debate in the 10-year, $171-billion farm bill is whether to take money away from commodity crop subsidies and shift it to conservation programs. The House is preparing to consider an amendment to the bill as early as today that would more than double the nation's conservation funding.

    The farm lobby and top Republican leaders have been aggressively lobbying members to defeat the conservation amendment. The chairman of the Agriculture Committee has threated to pull the entire bill off the floor if the amendment is approved.

    Until now, Florida has been above the regional squabbles of agriculture policy, but a strong showing of support for the conservation package could spark the wrath of lawmakers from the nation's heartland. Peanut subsidies and the federal government's sugar-loan program might be vulnerable to extinction without the support of the Midwest.

    But lawmakers from the mid-Atlantic and the Northeast, who tend not to receive subsidies and therefore favor conservation packages, are trolling for votes in states like Florida that grow fruits and vegetables instead of corn and wheat. Fruit and vegetable growers are not eligible for government subsidies, and conservation supporters have been trying to sell the benefits of additional money. They point out that Florida has a $70-million backlog of conservation projects.

    "If Florida doesn't get its fair share of this, it's going to have to wait a long time," said Tim Searchinger, an attorney with the Environmental Defense Fund.

    As written, the bill would give Florida about $50-million a year in conservation funding, an increase of 75 percent over the last version passed in 1996. But Reps. Ron Kind, D-Wis., and Wayne Gilchrest, R-Md., want to add an additional $1.9-billion a year to programs that help farmers improve water quality, restore wetlands and reduce nitrogen and phosphorous runoff.

    Environmentalists and opponents of government waste see Florida and its block of 22 votes as one key to pushing the amendment over the top.

    They have received some interested nibbles from Florida lawmakers. Rep. Porter Goss, the Sanibel Republican with an environmental streak, said he is inclined to support the idea but would like to see the overall bill. Rep. Dan Miller, R-Bradenton, a longtime opponent of sugar growers, plans to vote for the amendment. And Rep. Ric Keller, R-Orlando, new to Congress and the farm bill debate, sees benefits to the state.

    "It's not going to hurt our farmers, but it would give us more money for Everglades restoration," said Keller.

    According to an analysis of Department of Agriculture data by the Environmental Working Group, conservation spending in Florida since 1996 has totaled $30-million. Many congressional districts in states like Iowa and Kansas typically receive more than $200-million a year in subsidy payments alone.

    The two Florida members who have been under intense pressure to vote against the amendment are Reps. Allen Boyd, D-Monticello, and Adam Putnam, R-Bartow. Boyd remains undecided while Putnam, the only Floridian on the committee, has rebuffed the amendment.

    He says that the Kind amendment would "gut" support programs to farmers and cause some lawmakers to reverse their support for the overall bill. "It if passes everyone recognizes that you will have completely unraveled the farm bill," said Putnam.

    Back to State news
    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
     
    Special Links
    Lucy Morgan


    From the Times state desk