Johnson’s plan isn’t fiscally responsible

Johnson's plan isn't fiscally responsible by Scott Odenbach, Sioux Falls The drought afflicting South Dakota farmers has unfortunately become the battle cry of the political rather than the cause of the statesman.�

Sen. Tim Johnson has scored many political points accusing President Bush and John Thune of indirectly adding to the affliction by not intervening in a more meaningful way. Those interested in seeing workable, fiscally-responsible solutions need to ask their elected leaders: �What have you done for me lately?�

Tim Johnson is pushing a plan to spend an additional $5 billion, over and above the historically high $180 billion allocated earlier this year for farm programs. Everyone knows we need a solution to keep farmers in business. But is there another way? Must we spend additional money?

John Thune has shown the leadership and the creativity to find another way. It works like this:

In years when crop prices are low, farmers receive Loan Deficiency Payments (LDPs) to make up for the low prices and keep them in business.� These payments come out of money allocated in the farm bill. In years where crop prices are slightly higher due to lower overall yields (such as this year�s drought), LDP payments are correspondingly lower, i.e. less money to farmers equals more money left unspent from the farm bill. Such is the case this year.

The best forecasters working for the government have said that at least $6 billion of the $180 billion farm bill will not be spent because of this decrease in LDP payments. The politicians in Washington are looking foreword to spending that money on other pet programs.� John Thune has said, �Wait a minute! � Instead of spending that money for bridges in Brooklyn, let�s use $5 billion of that money for drought relief.�� This could be voted on and done tomorrow.�

Unfortunately, Tim Johnson has said �No� to this sound plan, instead choosing the well-worn path of more spending � in order to turn a devastating drought into a devastating political body blow for his opponent John Thune. This is short-sighted, fiscally irresponsible and unnecessary. It�s bad policy for the sake of good politics.� Farmers need solutions that will work. The budget needs to stay in its boundaries. John Thune�s plan does just that.� Tim Johnson�s does neither.� You decide. �

Scott Odenbach grew up in Eureka where his family still farms. He is an attorney in Sioux Falls.

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