Kucinich Dissents on Farm Program Funding

By Jesse Helling and Ali Noller
Iowa Presidential Politics.com

An agricultural policy widely supported by Democratic legislators has garnered accolades from all of the Democratic presidential candidates save one -- Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

The proposed new Conservation Security Program is among the hot issues in American agriculture.

The Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002 authorized the establishment of the CSP, a voluntary program that provides financial and technical assistance to promote the conservation and improvement of soil, water, air, energy, plant and animal life, as well as other conservation purposes.

Given widely held perceptions of Kucinich as the most liberal candidate in the field, his position -- and his vote against the 2002 farm bill -- might seem surprising. But Kucinich criticizes the provisions of the bill as insufficient.

"The CSP doesn't promote a greater environmental consciousness when the benefits go to large agribusinesses. I'm for a family-oriented agricultural program," he said.

Other candidates tend to toe fundamentally similar lines that favor the farm bill and the CSP as currently conceived.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean has embraced the program. The CSP is one of the centerpieces of Dean's farm plan, said Andrew Baumann, a Dean for America campaign issue spokesman.

"The CSP is a way to help support family farmers who need the support while also protecting our environment and benefiting all Americans," Baumann said.

Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass., John Edwards, D-N.C., and Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., along with Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., cast votes in favor of the most recent farm bill.

"As an advocate of environmental rights, Sen. Edwards thinks it is important to reward farmers who are using safe agricultural practices," said Kim Rubey, Edwards' Iowa press secretary.

Gen. Wesley Clark also has pledged to support the CSP should he be elected, as part of his Rural and Farm Security Plan.

Democratic candidates Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley Braun have been less definite in articulating their position on the CSP. They have called for stewardship of the planet, advocating an emphasis on environmental conservation.

The future of the program itself remains in question. The White House Office of Management and Budget has yet to establish rules for the program, which has been praised by President Bush.

Funding for the program is a subject of debate. The Bush administration advocates a funding cap of $3.77 billion for the CSP -- a provision that Dean, Kerry, Edwards and Clark formally oppose. All four of these candidates, if elected, vow to repeal any proposed spending restrictions.


Quotes from the candidates

E-mail Jesse Helling at [email protected] and Ali Noller at [email protected]

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