Bush was at the Pennsylvania State FFA (formally Future Farmers of America) Conference today to talk about Social Security reform. He also had a thing or two to say about his administrationâ€™s â€œsuccessfulâ€ farm policy.
You see, we tried to reduce government interference in the agricultural market, and at the same time, create incentives for sound conservation practices.
I wonder if those â€œincentives for conservationâ€ could be the new Conservation Security Program (CSP). The CSP was championed by family farm groups, and was considered a bright spot in an otherwise dim farm bill. To date the Bush Administration has prevented the program from being fully implemented. Current funding is capped at $202 million (total farm bill expenditures exceeded $11.5 billion in 2003). Properly funding the CSP would require at least $2-3 billion.
And speaking about tax relief, in order to make sure our farms stay within our farming families, we need to get rid of the death tax once and for all. [â€¦] For the sake of family farmers, Congress needs to get rid of the death tax forever. (Applause.)
Right. Except any farm large enough to be subject to the estate tax is quite likely anything but a family farm. In fact, the estate tax more than likely helps preserve family farms by leveling the playing field through taxes on the largest farm estates.
None of this should be a surprise from this administration. Instead, think of it as motivation to fight their poor ag and rural policy. Remember this was a speech to a captive group of young aspiring farmers. People who should be on our side.
The entire relevant excerpt of from the speech appears below the fold, including a bit about the upcoming vote in congress on CAFTA.
We started our — we made good progress for the agricultural committee — agriculture community by this farm bill I was honored to sign three years ago. This is a farm bill that provided a strong safety net for our farmers. It allows farmers and ranchers to plan and to operate based upon market realities, not government dictates. You see, we tried to reduce government interference in the agricultural market, and at the same time, create incentives for sound conservation practices. The bill I signed, and the Congress passed, has helped strengthen the farm economy, and promoted independence by our farmers, and helped preserve the farming way of life. And now we’ve got to build on the successes.
I’ve got a good man as the Secretary of Agriculture in Mike Johanns. He actually grew up on a farm. Some of you will be pleased to hear he grew up on a dairy farm. (Applause.) He’s going to be speaking to an FFA group in Illinois. He’s going to be listening to farmers and ranchers all across our country as we prepare for a new farm bill. But one thing is for certain — he doesn’t need to travel the country for me to understand this — in order for the agricultural sector of America to be strong, we got to keep your taxes low. (Applause.)
The tax relief we passed has helped our economy overcome a lot of challenges. The small business sector is strong today because small businesses are paying fewer federal taxes. The entrepreneurial spirit is strong today because of the tax relief. More people are working today in America than ever before in our nation’s history. The national unemployment rate is 5.1 percent. We’re making good progress. But in order to make sure this progress continues, Congress needs to make the tax relief we passed permanent. (Applause.)
And speaking about tax relief, in order to make sure our farms stay within our farming families, we need to get rid of the death tax once and for all. It makes no sense — (applause) — it makes no sense to tax a person’s assets twice, once while they’re living and again after they die. For the sake of family farmers, Congress needs to get rid of the death tax forever. (Applause.)
To keep agriculture strong, to make sure these good folks have a chance to make a good living in the agricultural sector, we need to continue to open up new markets abroad. I always told the American people, if you’re good at something, let’s promote it. We’re really good at growing things, so why don’t we grow things and sell them abroad? I mean, we’ve got enough food to feed ourselves, so it seems like to me to be a good strategy to open up markets so others can buy our crops, our soybeans and our corn, our products we grow right here at home.
My administration supports trade initiatives that level the playing field, and one such initiative is the Central American Dominican Republican Free Trade Agreement, which is coming before the United States Senate and the House of Representatives. Let me tell you why I think this is a good deal for all Americans, as well as our farmers and ranchers. Right now the United States is open to more than 80 percent of the goods being sold out of Central America into our own markets, and yet 80 percent of our goods don’t have equal access to their markets — markets of about 44 million people. Catch this — the United States is already open to more than 99 percent of Central America’s agricultural products. In other words, we’ve opened up our market, but our farm exports to Central America are losing ground every day to third countries that have got trade deals with these nations.
As your President, it seems like to make sense to me to say, if we treat you this way, you treat us — that’s what fair trade is all about. By opening up Central American markets, it will help our farmers. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimates that CAFTA could boost our agricultural exports by $1.5 billion when fully implemented. For the sake of fairness, and for the sake of the agricultural economy, the United States Congress needs to pass the CAFTA trade agreement now. (Applause.)
To keep American agriculture strong, we need to assure — ensure that all Americans have access to affordable, reliable and secure supplies of energy. You know, when I first came to Washington, D.C., nearly four years ago — a little over four years ago — I knew we had a problem with energy. See, we’re too dependent on foreign sources of energy. So we developed a strategy that would make us less dependent on foreign sources of energy. And by the way, one reason why you’re seeing your gasoline prices go up, why farmers are paying higher fertilizer prices, why it costs more to fill your tractor, is because we’re dependent on foreign sources of energy.
And so I said to the United States Congress, why don’t we get wise about our energy policy? Why don’t we do things differently? Why don’t we encourage conservation? Why don’t we make sure we spend money so we can have clean coal technology, so we can use the coal resources of a state like Pennsylvania in our electricity plants that has zero emissions? Why don’t we continue research and development, so we can use soybeans or corn to develop new sources of energy?
I was at a plant the other day in Virginia. It was a soy diesel refinery. They’re taking crops grown right here in America, putting them in the refinery, and out comes a fuel that we can use in diesel engines.
We need to be using clean, safe nuclear power. We need to make sure that the United States of America diversifies away from a hydrocarbon society, so we’re no longer dependent on foreign sources of energy. The House has passed a bill, the Senate will have the bill on the floor. This Congress needs to stop debating energy policy and get a bill to my desk before the August resource — recess break. (Applause.)
Entire speech here.