2002 Scorecard Vote
Farming and ranching operations cover more than half the land in the 48 contiguous United States. Good stewardship of this land is vital to keeping our water clean, preserving our open spaces, maintaining local sources of food, and protecting wildlife habitat. The U.S. Department of Agriculture administers several conservation incentive programs that encourage agricultural producers to voluntarily preserve their natural resources. While these programs are popular with landowners, the vast majority of farmers who seek to enroll in them are turned away due to lack of funding.
In stark contrast to these conservation funding shortfalls are the liberal sums of money spent on federal crop subsidies. Originally created to cushion farmers from the ups-and-downs of the market, crop subsidies, for many years, have disproportionately favored large agribusinesses and landlords over small farmers and ranchers. In 1999, for instance, 45 percent of all crop subsidies went to the largest 7 percent of farms. Meanwhile, according to the latest annual statistics, 60 percent of U.S. farmers receive no crop subsidies at all.
During its consideration of the 2002 farm bill, the Senate overwhelmingly approved a provision to cap the amount of crop subsidies for any single farm operator. That provision, however, was in danger of being gutted by the conference committee charged with reconciling the House and Senate farm bills. In response, Representative Nick Smith (R-MI) offered a motion to instruct House conferees that the farm bill should contain a reasonable cap on crop subsidies and the resulting savings should go to boost funding for agricultural conservation and research programs.
On April 18, 2002, the House approved the Smith motion by a vote of 265-158 (House roll call vote 100). YES is the pro-environment vote. Despite this approval, the farm bill that emerged from House-Senate conference set crop subsidy caps so high and created so many loopholes as to render the caps meaningless. This left no savings to be allocated for conservation and research.
When the farm bill conference report (H.R. 2624) came to the House floor for final passage, Representative Ron Kind (D-WI) offered a motion to send the bill back to the House Agriculture Committee with instructions to restore the crop subsidy cap and dedicate much of the savings to conservation programs. On May 2, 2002, the House rejected the Kind motion to recommit the bill by a 172-251 vote (House roll call vote 122). YES is the pro-environment vote. The farm bill passed the House later that day, passed the Senate on May 8, 2002, and was signed into law by President Bush on May 13, 2002.