New farm bill promises squeeze on family budgets as it encourages further inflation in food prices

from reason.com (click here to read original article):

Farm Bill Follies

Congress avoids every opportunity to reform wasteful and outdated subsidies

The $300 billion farm bill is being cobbled together by Congress this week. As Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) noted, “It’s not just a farm bill. This is a farm and a food and an energy bill.”

As Otto von Bismarck quipped, “Laws are like sausage. It’s better not to see them being made.” Let’s take a look at these three aspects of this unappetizing piece of sausage.

First, what do the farmers get? Answer: A lot. Last year, net farm income reached a record level of nearly $89 billion due to high crop prices. Farm household income averaged $84,000 in 2007, according to the Environmental Working Group (the 2006 average for all U.S. households was $66,000). Despite such good times, the federal government showered $5 billion in direct payments on 1.4 million farmers.

These direct payments have nothing to do with crop productivity or a safety net in case of low prices—they are basically gifts to farmers just because they are farmers. In fact, farmers with gross incomes up to $2.5 million have been eligible for these payments. President Bush wants to cap that at $200,000 in income, but the House is considering a cap of $500,000, and the Senate voted to cap the payments at $750,000 per year in income. Overall, Congress shaved just 2 percent off of the direct payments of $5 billion per year over the next four years. While this is a barely discernible improvement, one would think record high farm incomes combined with a world food crisis would make this a good time for Congress to scrap farming subsidies altogether.

It is true that about two-thirds of farm-bill spending funds nutrition programs such as school lunches and food stamps. Lawmakers added $10 billion to the food stamp program to help lower-income Americans address higher food prices. But why are food prices higher in the first place? Part of the reason is the federal government’s subsidies and its mandate to turn food into fuel—which brings us to the legislation’s energy policy madness.

In December, Congress passed and President Bush signed the Energy Independence and Security Act, which mandated that the U.S. produce 9 billion gallons of conventional biofuels this year. The Act requires that 15 billion gallons of conventional biofuels be produced by 2015 and that 36 billion gallons of conventional and “advanced” biofuels be produced by 2022. How does this affect food prices?

Higher corn prices result from biofuel mandates and subsidies, which encourage farmers to plant fewer acres of wheat and soybeans—which in turn raises their prices. In addition, corn is the chief feed grain for which producers of beef, poultry, and pork must pay higher prices which they will eventually pass along to consumers. In 2006, a bushel of corn sold for just under $2; today it sells for nearly $6.

Currently, most biofuels are produced by turning corn into ethanol. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the 2008 corn crop will be 14.6 billion bushels, of which 3.2 billion[*] bushels will be fermented into ethanol. In other words, about 22 percent of our corn crop will be floating out the tailpipes of our automobiles next year.

The new farm bill contains a small gesture in the direction of sanity by reducing bioethanol subsidies from 51 cents per gallon to 45 cents per gallon. This should reduce the price of a bushel of corn by about 3 cents, according to the Des Moines Register. On the other hand, Congress is trying get around the unintended consequences of its biofuels policy by offering $1.01 per gallon subsidy for so-called cellulosic ethanol. Large-scale production of cellulosic ethanol has yet to take off, so the farm bill also disperses $400 million in tax credits in the hope of jumpstarting such production. In addition, the bill extends the tariff on imported ethanol until 2012.

The biofuel mandate is not the only reason for higher food prices—higher oil and fertilizer prices as well as commodity speculation also contribute substantially.

But there’s no excuse for Congress to make matters worse with this farm bill. As Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) declared, “Negotiators managed to avoid every opportunity to reform wasteful, outdated subsidies while piling on additional layers of unnecessary spending.” As a consequence, Americans can look forward to thinner wallets as they struggle to fuel their cars and feed their kids.

Shots Fired After Man is teased for passing gas

Click here to watch original newscast of this sick, sad true story.

wdropping a bomb leads to gunplaySOUTHPORT, NY – Flatulence is blamed for a Sunday night shooting at a Southport business.

William Hoover, 32, pulled out a semi-automatic rifle at Wheeler’s Beverage Barn and shot at three people who teased him about passing gas, a Chemung County sheriff’s investigator said.

The incident began inside the store after 6 p.m., where Hoover got into an argument with the three people who teased him about his flatulence, deputies said.

When the argument moved outside and turned physical, Hoover ran to his car, pulled out a semi-automatic rifle, and shot at the three people, deputies said. More

FDA reports Salmonella outbreaks in 17 states (23 hospitalizations) linked to Tomatoes, avoid eating tomatoes in the United States for now.

“…Why not?” The Quotable George Bernard Shaw.

“Some men see things as they are and ask why. Others dream things that never were and ask why not,”

–George Bernard Shaw

Click here for more nice Shaw quotes.

Local men uncover 1960’s to 1970’s era live U.S. military bomb while bulldozing at Jackson area golf course.

Excerpt from the JacksonSun.com:

“Freddie McGee never felt running his bulldozer was dangerous enough to cause him to insure his life, until he found a live piece of military ordnance while working at Hidden Valley Golf Course.

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“It was an old military-type rocket,” McGee said. “A tube-type device that you would see in a war movie.”

The device was removed by a bomb disposal team from Fort Campbell, Ky., according to the Madison County Sheriff’s office. It was destroyed at a South Madison County farm. The bomb was thought to have been built between the late ’60s and early ’70s.

McGee was doing course work near Hidden Valley’s No. 5 hole when he and another worker nearly drove over the bomb, which he described as about 3 feet long, 3 to 4 inches in diameter, and dome-shaped at one end. The rear end of the bomb had tail fins. McGee said it weighed about 20 pounds.

“It was pretty serious looking,” he said. “It would have been bad if one of us had run over it with a dozer, since it is an anti-personnel and has all that shrapnel.”

Biggest monthly jump in U.S. unemployment since 1986 happened this April

From Newsday.com: (found here.)

“The unemployment rate rose to 5.5 percent, from 5 percent in April, the biggest monthly increase since 1986. The rise surprised economists, who were forecasting an uptick to 5.1 percent.

The economy lost 49,000 jobs across a spectrum of businesses, including construction, manufacturing, retail and temporary-help services, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Employers have cut payrolls for five straight months, but the latest cuts weren’t as deep as the 60,000 analysts were bracing for.”

Also…

(found here) ….”Oil prices jumped more than $11, approaching a record $140 a barrel. Earlier in the day, the Department of Labor released a startling figure: The nation’s unemployment rate in May climbed from 5 percent to 5.5 percent, the biggest one-month jump since 1986.”