Let’s Make A Deal

Posted: 13/05/2008 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,
The deadline for the passage of the 2007 US Farm bill is swiftly approaching, being due for final action on 16 May of this year. The passage of this gargantuan paycheck to the special interest lobbies will come in at a tad under 300 billion dollars this time around. I don’t have any problems with helping people out that need a hand, everybody needs a hand now and then, but there are just too many expenses in this legislation that really have nothing to do with the business of farming and feeding the nation.

We’ve all heard of the brouhaha over the earmarking practice in which politicians partake that results in blowing the costs of bills beyond its appropriate proportion in exchange for their votes in support of the bill. This one is no exception. While one would casually think that a farm bill of this magnitude would have to deal strictly with the business of farming and feeding the taxpayers of this country, it has become a much larger behemoth. Since its original passage way back in 1936, it has grown to encompass much more than agriculture.

My opinion is that the Farm Bill should be laid to rest. In its place, a completely revamped bill should be generated that deals strictly with the issues surrounding the farm industry of the US. All through the last century the laws of this country have become more and more free rides to special interest legislation that do nothing for the good of this Nation as a whole. One senator says to another, I’ll vote for your bill if you allow me to add this piece of funding to it. Another one says to a congressman, I’ll support your legislation in the Senate if you support mine in the house.

This bill has become the same instrument of destruction to our economy as most of the others have. Once upon a time this bill was supposedly beneficial to the US as it allowed farmers in this nation to operate with at least a glimmer of hope for making a profit, while gaining some protections they had not had before. What it was intended to do was regulate price and provided subsidy funds to control runaway inflation in the food industry. Many farmers of the time actually had to cut back on production in order to avoid having too much food available at the market. This bill passed in 1933 was called the Agricultural Reform Act. Following that, in 1935 the Soil and Conservation Act was passed and then the Agricultural Conservation Program in 1936. In all of these Bills, or Acts as some of our shyster politicians like to call them, the main purpose was to limit or control the amount of produce and other agricultural goods to control the prices.

It’s interesting to note that all of these bills have been titled as acts in order to hornswoggle the public into supporting them. I guess it’s easier to swallow if it isn’t a bill. Maybe because if it isn’t a bill, it doesn’t have to be paid? But at any rate, this Farm bill has grown over the course of the years to now have a taxpayer fed budget of nearly three hundred billion dollars in cost. The high figure I have read was about $285,000,000,000.00. As a little math exercise, if we were to divide it up into 50 equal payments, one for each state, we would have to collect $5,700,000,000.00 from each and every state. Bear in mind that Maine’s nonexistent budget shortfall the Lefties were crying about in the last budget was only about $2000,000,000.00. That’s quite a difference.

But I caught one bit of news from out west that really caught my eye in all of this current realm of legislative check and checkmate. Seems our neighbor, Plum Creek Timber, and their partner the Nature Conservancy, plan to make a good chunk of change on this little bill. Doesn’t directly affect Maine, but it will ultimately have some relevance down the road in a few years when we realize at long last that we’ve been screwed on the Northwood’s deal of the century.

Many NGO’s rely on hidden tax perks in order to survive, and some of them do quite well when these taxpayer funds are added to the billions these organizations collect every year. So here’s the little $200,000,000.00, or two hundred million dollar perk that PC and TNC will be obtaining if this bill gets approved as it sits as of 15 May. It appears as though the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, slipped a little earmark into the bills language.

According to House Minority Leader John Boehner, Baucus “…slipped in a targeted earmark to help the Plum Creek Timber Company in Montana sell a parcel of land to the scandal-tarnished “environmental group,” the Nature Conservancy. The earmark allows the Nature Conservancy to claim a $250 million “tax refund” – even though, as a non-profit they don’t actually pay taxes. But instead of being open and honest about their intentions to spend $250 million in taxpayer money, Democrats attempted to keep it secret by crafting the provision to ensure the funds go only to a federal forest project of a certain size that also has fish. That’s right. Fish. In a forest. Forest fish. In the whole country, only one tract fits the bill – and it happens to be located in Senator Baucus’ home state of Montana.”

So, according to another article from the Phoenix on 15 August ’07, Deirdre Fulton says that “…Maine gets such a small chunk of federal Farm Bill money for its crops — about $7 million — that its share registers as zero percent of all state allocations on the Web site of eco-watchdog Environmental Working Group.” Seems like quite a windfall for the pair. Maine gets seven million and Plum Creek gets 200 million. And then we get to maybe pay them for Moosehead on top of that. But there is a few tidbits more to the story.

Boehner also had this to say in an interview with The Hill news service “…Secondly, when you look at some of the issues that, frankly, don’t belong in there, you know, this $200 million payment to Plum Creek Timber as part of a Nature Conservancy buyout strikes me as an egregious earmark. And some of the heady provisions are causing concern. Beyond that, I don’t know what other bombshells might be in this bill. We haven’t seen it yet.” He’s right about that, we don’t know what else is in the bill. It wasn’t available in its entirety at the time of the interview.

The earmark placed into the language by Baucus specifically dealt with something called the Qualified Forestry Bonds Program. The forest must be adjacent to U.S. Forest Service Land. The program makes available Federal funded tax credit bonds to purchase forest land that meets four specific criteria. These four criteria are; 1. Half of the parcel must be turned over to the U.S. Forest Service; 2. It must include at least 40,000 total acres; 3. The forest must be adjacent to U.S. Forest Service Land; and 4. It must be subject to a “native fish habitat conservation plan approved by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.”

Delving further into the subject, David Freddoso had this to say about the situation in the National Review Online; “Only one parcel of land in the entire United States meets the criteria set for the Qualified Forestry Bonds program. You see, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved exactly one “Native Fish Habitat Conservation Plan,” covering a 1.6-million-acre parcel that reaches from western Montana into eastern Washington State. And that parcel is owned by the Plum Creek Timber Company…”

An article in The Nature Conservancy’s magazine had the following to say about the tax for land control scheme they cooked up. The article was called ‘Sale Of The Century” which pretty well sums it up. Here’s a couple of quotes regarding their Moosehead project;

Plum Creek owned some real ecological gems that we had wanted to see conserved for some time,” says Michael Tetreault, director of the Conservancy’s Maine chapter.”

“Plum Creek and the Conservancy negotiated a new plan.” Notice it was Plum Creek and TNC that negotiated, not Plum Creek and the people of Maine?

The article also says;
“[The Conservancy] was able to structure this deal largely because in Maine, Plum Creek had to submit to a regulatory regime,” he says. “There are very few regulatory regimes out there.”

“But there are other tools available for protecting U.S. forestlands. For instance, the 2007 farm bill, a $120 billion piece of legislation circling the Washington beltway, could make an enormous difference in the future of America’s forests.”

We’re focused on the farm bill reauthorization because that is where the money could come from to make that happen.”

Our No. 1 priority congressionally in the next two years is to get a strong farm bill. The legislation will determine how billions in federal forestry and agriculture dollars are spent over the next decade.”

It appears as though TNC has made an agreement to purchase the easement rights on the property in question, and seemingly will be paid for the property by the Federal taxpayers for the easements, of which the control will still reside with this private, tax exempt organization. A fantastic deal for Plum Creek, a fantastic deal for TNC, but not such a good deal for the American taxpayer. Maine needs the aid that the Farm Bill can provide in its nutrition program that provides much needed nutrition to most of Maine’s lower income and disabled citizens. But I believe it’s time to separate these added programs from the Farm Bill and let them stand on their own merits. Farming is an essential part of this country. So isn’t conservation and some parts of the welfare programs. If they are worth having, why is it they have to hide in the coattails of the Farm Bill?

These NGO’s and other organizations are profiting from non-profit and we taxpayers are footing an ever increasing bill to cover the costs. I think it’s time we Mainer’s get together and start turning things around.

Psalm 26:9-11 (King James Version)

9 Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men:
10 In whose hands is mischief, and their right hand is full of bribes.
11 But as for me, I will walk in mine integrity: redeem me, and be merciful unto me.


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