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Published March 01, 2008, 12:00 AM

Pomeroy says Bush ‘moves goal posts’ in farm bill talks

BISMARCK — If a new farm bill isn’t signed by President Bush by March 15 and the current one must be extended, Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said Friday, he’ll consider that a defeat.

By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau

BISMARCK — If a new farm bill isn’t signed by President Bush by March 15 and the current one must be extended, Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., said Friday, he’ll consider that a defeat.

Farmers need a new farm bill for “the most expensive crop they’ve ever put in the ground, this spring,” he said, a reference to the high fuel costs and other rising expenses.

Pomeroy, who met with about 20 farm leaders and other North Dakotans Friday, also said the Bush administration keeps “moving the goal posts,” creating more new reasons why it the president won’t accept each successive bipartisan plan Senate and House leaders have agreed upon.

Pomeroy heaped praises on the House’s Agriculture Committee chairman, Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., during the meeting, calling Peterson’s work “extraordinary.”

In the latest plan, Congressional leaders propose paying for the $10 billion additional cost of their bill with a tax enforcement program.

But Chuck Connor, the lead negotiator from the Bush administration, who also was interim U.S. Department of Agriculture secretary until recently, said it’s unacceptable and amounts to a tax increase.

But Pomeroy said it was the White House budget that first proposed the very same enforcement plan.

“The president didn’t say it was a new tax when he put it in his budget,” Pomeroy said.

It calls for merchants who accept credit card payments to receive a document similar to an IRS form 1099 at the end of each year, showing how much cash was paid to the merchants by the credit card companies.

Connor’s and the administration’s unwillingness to agree with congressional farm bill plans “reflects a White House that’s not serious about reaching an agreement,” Pomeroy said.

”Why would we not be better off waiting until next year (when a new president will be in office)?” asked Bismarck businessman Niles Hushka.

Pomeroy said the Senate Agriculture Committee chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, agrees with that idea.

Larry Kleingartner, executive director of the National Sunflower Association, agreed with Pomeroy’s belief that crop insurance, not price supports, will be the most important part of the farm bill.

Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.

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