Let’s get the supposed good part of the bill out of the way first. Food Stamps. That’s about it. We get to dole out more of them. And I guess the part about allowing and assisting farmers to preserve more farm land was worthwhile.
An AP article making the rounds reports that Rep. Jeff Flake, a Republican from Arizona was complaining that there were too many last minute additions to the bill and there wasn’t enough time to ferret out a lot of the waste. Personally, I would have rather they just extended the old Farm Bill a couple of years and worked out a brand new bill that deals specifically with the issue of farming in this country, and nothing else. As far as I’m concerned, if a cause is worth paying for, it should be able to stand on its own two feet. None of this game playing of sticking it on to another bill, or hiding the expense in somebody’s pet project.
It seems as though there were quite a few pet projects in this bill, and a few of them are gonna burn some holes in the taxpayers pocket because of it. For instance, Sen. Majority leader Harry Reid of Nevada got to rake in $175 million to buy water for some lake(s) in the desert. There’s a reason it’s called a desert. But apparently, it doesn’t seem to matter. Next April when your tax forms are due, remember those lakes in Nevada.
A couple of years ago, the Salmon fisheries of the West Coast received 60 million dollars in aid for their struggling industry. This bill gets them another 170 million. What the heck did they do with the first 60 million in two years? I’d love to know where it went. Texas gets 50 million to help the rural poor find housing. I’m not really sure how that program would relate to promotion and support of the agricultural industry. Maybe they consider poor people crops in Texas? There’s also money provided for a Congressional hunger center. Not a clue on that one. Maybe they need a new cafeteria at the Senate building or something. Glad the 28% that’s getting sucked out of my paycheck for taxes is being used wisely.
Getting closer to home here in Maine, the Chesapeake Bay Watershed Conservation Program gets 382 million tax dollars and yet another Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt managed to get a sale of publicly owned land in Vermont approved. The bill allows the Federal Gov. to sell portions of the Green Mountain National Forest to a private ski area. According to Leahy, and supposedly with USFWS backing, the sale would actually save the service money, and the land was being used for skiing anyways. So, does this mean that next time around, the Feds can unload part of Acadia National Park? Maybe sell some of it off to Modena for his little eco-terrorist resort?
But it looks like Baucus from Minnesota takes the grand prize. Seems like all of the news reporters and a good percentage of the blogging world are all over the special earmark that provides a way for Plum Creek Timber to suck up some more tax money for land. I don’t want to be in his shoes next election time. He managed to get a provision allowing up to 500 million in bonds be authorized for state and local governments, and nonprofit groups to by land for conservation. According to the White House, that provision would authorize the purchase of 400,000 acres of land in Montana from a single owner, the Plum Creek Timber Co.
TNC strikes again. Under the provision, the state or a nonprofit would sell up to $500 million in tax-credit bonds to an investor. In return, the investor would receive a tax credit of somewhat more than the initial $500 million. A state or nonprofit would use a portion of the money to purchase key lands. The remainder would be invested, so that when the bond matured, the issuer could pay back to the federal treasury the $500 million in deferred taxes. The provision would cost taxpayers an estimated $250 million over 10 years and the additional tax credit claimed by the bond buyer, plus the interest lost on tax money not collected. An alternative allows the state or nonprofit to forego the bonds and simply receive a $250 million payout from the federal government for purchase of the forest lands.
Sounds like it may have some merit, but the details of the provision prove beyond doubt that it was engineered for the benefit of just two entities. These are the requirements for a piece of land to meet; The forest must be adjacent to U.S. Forest Service Land; half of the parcel must be turned over to the U.S. Forest Service; it must include at least 40,000 total acres; and it must be subject to a “native fish habitat conservation plan approved by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.” David Freddoso wrote in a 12 May article in the National Review “…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, the single largest private landowner in the United States.”
This apparently is the same land that TNC has agreed to purchase from Plum Creek and resell to the taxpayers for purposes of conservation. A couple of interesting points were made about how Plum Creek does business. Although to be fair, I must point out that for big business, it seems to be a usual proceeding. But anyway, Freddoso goes on to say that “Plum Creek spent some $220,000 lobbying Congress in the first quarter of this year. Its PAC has spread $400,000 in campaign contributions between the parties in the last decade. PCL Employees have given $16,600 this cycle to Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.), chairman of the Senate Finance committee and the author of the bond provision.” I wonder what Plum Creek’s political contributions in Maine were, and to who?
Baucus also garnered $1 million for a national sheep and goat industry improvement center. I’m not sure as I really want to know how Baucus plans to improve all of those sheep and goats. Bottom line is that the Farm Bill once again turned out to be a boondoggle of a pork bill for a select few. I really do think somebody needs to begin making some changes at the Federal level of our elected representation.
Proverbs 14:7-9 (King James Version)
8 The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way: but the folly of fools is deceit.
9 Fools make a mock at sin: but among the righteous there is favour.