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Farm bill fiscal cuts sure to hurt farmers

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- The most recent version of the farm bill is an attempt at compromise, a necessary step in the process of reconciling the differences between the Senate and House versions.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- The most recent version of the farm bill is an attempt at compromise, a necessary step in the process of reconciling the differences between the Senate and House versions.

But while compromise is a good and crucial part of this process, the resulting legislation is a disaster for South Dakota.

Even if it does somehow make it through Congress, President Bush still might veto it in his sudden desire for fiscal discipline.

Here's the timeline: The House passed its original version of the bill in July, the Senate in December. Under threat of a veto because of subsidies going to wealthier producers, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Collin Peterson, D-Minn., hammered out a new House version that cut subsidy payments and should be more pleasing to the White House.

Trouble is, the House negotiated directly with the White House rather than consulting with the Senate first, setting up an unusual disagreement on farm issues among South Dakota's delegation. Our senators are dead set against the House measure, while Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin defends it as an honest attempt to arrive at a compromise.

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More problematic is that some of the programs that were cut are extremely important to South Dakota producers, including a reduction of money set aside for the Conservation Reserve Program and the elimination of a $5 billion fund that the Senate bill would have set up for disaster payments.

Potentially the worst thing about the House proposal, though, is that if it goes through, we're stuck with it for 10 years instead of the usual five.

While the president's request to eliminate payments for the richest producers is supported by many here, the overall atmosphere in Washington seems to be less and less friendly toward supporting family farms.

Every vote that cuts programs that directly affect smaller operators makes it easier for Congress and the White House to ignore them. It's up to our delegation to ensure that doesn't happen.

Family farms -- and the rural Midwestern culture that they support -- are counting on them.

-- Argus Leader of Sioux Falls, S.D.

U.S. needs to rely on conservation, renewable fuel

WILMOT, S.D. -- Russia's Itera Ethanol L.L.C. invested in the huge $265 million Clearfield, Pa., ethanol plant to be built this year. Our imported oil addiction results in an ever-growing export of dollars to the two largest oil exporters: Russia and Saudi Arabia. The United States imports two-thirds of its oil and consumes nearly one-third of the world's oil, yet it only has 3 percent of the world's oil reserves. Saudi Arabia and Russia are the largest oil exporters and have the world's largest oil and natural gas reserves. It is no coincidence that they have the world's largest dollar reserves and it's no coincidence they have dollars to invest in the U.S. ethanol industry.

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Corn used for ethanol production does raise the cost of food, but we must keep those increased costs in perspective. The vast majority of food costs are advertising, distribution and retailing, thus inflationary pressures caused by our ever-increasing dollar exports for oil have the biggest effect on food prices.

Our best hope for getting off this imported oil addiction is not through more drilling but through expanded use of conservation technologies and renewable fuels technologies. Americans obviously do not want to recognize their own personal complicity in the United States' biggest losing trade of dollars on imported oil. Could some corn use for ethanol possibly cause this mess?

The game has changed: Russia knows it is far more profitable to buy U.S. banks and infrastructure.

-- Orrie Swayze

Editor's Note: Swayze farms in Wilmot, S.D., and is a board member of the Alternative Fuels Institute.

Uncle Sam holds

the key in hemp battle

MINOT, N.D. -- In North Dakota, a state law allowing farmers to grow industrial hemp won't be taking effect any time soon -- if ever.

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The North Dakota congressional delegation offers little hope for anyone interested in growing industrial hemp.

As long as the Drug Enforcement Administration considers hemp to be de-fined the same as its cousin, marijuana, there is virtually no chance Congress will take up the battle.

Two North Dakota farmers have sued the U.S. government to change the definition of industrial hemp. U.S. District Judge Daniel Hovland dismissed the lawsuit in November, saying the issue should be resolved in Congress.

But our congressional delegation isn't confident that Congress will even discuss the issue, much less act on it. Unfortunately, they're right. We suspect a couple of years from now, this issue won't have changed any -- growing industrial hemp in the United States still will be illegal, and hemp proponents still will be trying to make their case to the federal government.

We believe the government should take up this issue -- but we also believe the government won't.

-- Minot (N.D.) Daily News

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