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Pass the better farm bill Likely versions simply continue policies in place since the Great Depression

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, Democrats in Congress want to invest billions of your tax dollars in the health of America's children. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, Democrats in Congress are willing to squander billions of your tax dollars to undermine not only the health of America's children, but also the health of the very earth, air and water that sustain them.

The former is the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which President Bush has hard-heartedly vetoed. The latter is the 2007 farm bill, which the president could, with a clear conscience, reject, if Congress is foolish enough to send it to him.

A far superior version of farm legislation is also before the Senate. Sens. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., and Richard Lugar, R-Ind., have cooked up what they call the FRESH Act, for Farm Ranch Equity Stewardship and Health Act of 2007. That is the bill that should pass, and that the president should sign.

The versions approved by the House and by the Senate Agriculture Committee would continue the core of farm policy that hasn't changed since the Depression. It would subsidize what are now already rich agribusiness interests to produce already surplus staple crops -- to the tune of $26 billion over the next five years. The FRESH Act would instead focus on conservation, equity and a new taxpayer-supported insurance program that will pay out only when real farmers hit a rough spot of weather or market conditions beyond their control.

The Senate Agriculture Committee version, like the one that passed the House, would at least put some income limits on subsidy programs that now funnel millions of dollars into the pockets of city-dwelling landlords. But, even with Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, continuing his long effort to shift the emphasis from subsidy to conservation, the bill does very little to improve a policy that practically begs the ever-larger agribusiness concerns to flood the planet -- and your gullet -- with cheap corn and its obesity-creating byproduct, high-fructose corn syrup.

The status-quo approach would also prop up American rice, cotton and sugar producers at the expense of both U.S. taxpayers and Third World farmers whose markets are routinely swamped by our surplus production. That's a sure loser in world trade forums, which is part of the reason for the White House's opposition. Unless Congress takes the FRESH approach to farm policy, this is a measure that heartily deserves the president's veto.

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