House majority passes farm bill, tax increases

Published 6:39 am Tuesday, July 31, 2007

By By Jo Bonner
After months of bipartisan work in the House Agriculture Committee, the House last week passed H.R. 2419, the Farm, Nutrition, and Bioenergy Act of 2007. Unfortunately, due to a last-minute insertion of a controversial, highly partisan tax increase by the Democratic majority, I had to oppose the bill that I had worked months on in hopes of supporting.
With the 2002 farm bill set to expire later this year, the Agriculture Committee has been front and center working to write a farm bill that can be good for both America's farmers and the hundreds of millions of Americans who depend on them.
Truth be told, I was very hopeful when the farm bill came out of the committee – in fact, it passed with near unanimous support. And given the financial constraints of the measure, both the chairman and the ranking member did the best they could to craft a bipartisan farm bill.
Traditionally, farm bills are bipartisan in nature breaking down more along regional lines than party lines. As you can appreciate, a 500 acre soybean farm in southwest Alabama is obviously a much different type of operation than a 250,000 acre cattle farm in Montana.
But the bill the Agriculture Committee passed was drastically changed right before it came to the House floor. Along the way, the hope for bipartisanship seemed to dissipate when the majority party included a $7.5 billion tax increase – couched as "closing the loophole on foreign investment." In reality, however, this was nothing more than a huge new tax on foreign companies that operate in the United States and employ Americans – potentially driving away millions of American jobs.
As you know, there is no better example of where foreign investment can help turn around an economy than our state of Alabama. Today, Alabama has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation largely because of the foreign companies that have invested here over the past few years.
While foreign companies like Degussa, Ciba, Austal USA, IPSCO Steel and Mobile Aerospace – among many others – have helped to turn around south Alabama's economy; the same can be said statewide for Mercedes-Benz, Honda and Hyundai.
And, who can discount the impact of ThyssenKrupp, the German steel giant that is building a $3.7 billion plant in south Alabama, employing thousands of people in the process? Friends, these are all foreign companies, yet when they invest and bring jobs to America, the last thing we should want to do is discourage them from signing up American workers.
Provisions were also added to the farm bill that will divert the deepwater royalties in the Gulf of Mexico to fund farm bill programs that have nothing to do with the environmental risks of producing energy from deepwater leases.
While this does not initially affect Alabama, it nevertheless sets a bad precedent for future royalty sharing debates. We must encourage energy production and, sadly, this farm bill does little to further our energy independence.
In the end, the majority chose to use the farm bill as a means to raise taxes, displace jobs, and hurt America's global competitiveness. As such, on final passage, I had to vote against a bill that I felt would hurt our state's prosperity and, in turn, Alabama's farmers.
Town Hall Meetings
In August, I will be traveling throughout the district holding 20 town hall meetings in all six counties of Alabama's First District.
Monday, Aug. 13
8 a.m.-9 a.m. – Dauphin Island Town Hall
10 am.-11 a.m. – Tillman's Corner Community Center
12:30-1:30 p.m. – Prichard City Hall
2 p.m.-3 p.m. – Saraland Civic Center
4 p.m.- 5 p.m. – Citronelle City Hall
Tuesday, Aug. 14
9 a.m.-10 a.m. – Stockton, Stage Coach Restaurant
11 a.m.-12 p.m. – Mount Vernon, Town Hall
2 p.m.-3 p.m. – McIntosh Town Hall
4 p.m.-5 p.m. – Grove Hill Town Hall
Wednesday, Aug. 15
10 a.m-11: a.m. – Uriah, Uriah Volunteer Fire Department
12 p.m-1 p.m. – Perdue Hill Masonic Lodge
2:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m. – East Brewton City Hall
4:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m. – Flomaton, Town Hall
Thursday, Aug. 16
9 a.m.-10 a.m. – Josephine, Josephine Volunteer Fire Department
11 a.m.-12 p.m. – Bon Secour, Bon Secour Volunteer Fire Department
1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m. – Magnolia Springs, Magnolia Springs Volunteer Fire Department
3:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m. – Summerdale Community Center
5 p.m.-6 p.m. – Silverhill Town Hall
Friday, Aug. 17
8 a.m.-9 a.m. – West Mobile, Jon Archer Agricultural Center
10 a.m.-11 a.m. – Bayou La Batre, City Hall
My staff and I work for you. If we can ever be of service, do not hesitate to call my office toll free at 1-800-288-8721 or visit my website at
Jo Bonner is a U.S. congressman. His column appears weekly.

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