Leading the fight for farm welfare

Today's Wall Street Journal has a fascinating deconstruction of how the farm lobby beat back attempts to curtail agriculture subsidies. Farmers will collect some $13 billion in federal subsidies this year. This despite the fact that farms, buoyed by the ethanol boom and soaring commodity prices, are projected to reap record income of $92.3 billion in 2008. Average farm household income is expected be about $90,000 this year. Currently farms with incomes of up to $2.5 million are elligible for federal funds.

Reform advocates, including President Bush, had hoped to strip out as much as $10 billion in subsidies over the next five years. But the most substantive changes were scuttled due to the persuasive powers of the farm lobby. The WSJ story notes that the agribusiness industry pumped $80 million into federal lobbying efforts last year alone.

"We got rolled," says Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. ... "The agriculture community circled the wagons."

Leading the fight for the status quo? Rep. Colin Peterson, of Minnesota's 7th Congressional District, who also happens to be chairman of the House Agriculture Committee:

As the measure headed to the House floor in July, advocates of reform made a last-ditch bid for support, appealing to Speaker Pelosi. But the California Democrat sided with Mr. Peterson of the House Agriculture Committee. The year before, he'd ushered Mrs. Pelosi around a popular farm festival in Minnesota, where she mingled with farmers and ate pork chops on a stick.