(Host) Earlier this afternoon, the U-S Senate passed a five-year extension of the farm bill.
Senator Patrick Leahy has been widely praised by farmers because the legislation expands a dairy price support program.
But, as VPR’s Ross Sneyd reports, a few other provisions that Leahy inserted into the bill have also gotten attention.
(Sneyd) Not all of that attention has been favorable.
The Republican leader in the House, Congressman John Boehner of Ohio, said Senator Leahy loaded up the farm bill with pork, including a “trail to nowhere.”
The provision in question involves Bromley Mountain in the southern Vermont town of Peru.
(Cueman) “They obviously don’t have the facts.”
(Sneyd) Bromley vice president John Cueman says the provision is about a proposed land sale.
The farm bill authorizes the U-S Forest Service to consider the sale of 686 acres in the Green Mountain National Forest to Bromley.
It’s included in the farm bill because the Forest Service is part of the Department of Agriculture.
Bromley would buy the land from the Forest Service to build four or five new ski trails and a chairlift. But most of the land would be for new real estate development.
Cueman says the deal is not unique. Sugarbush did a similar land swap a decade ago.
Cueman says Bromley needs the development. It hasn’t opened any new beds in more than 20 years.
(Cueman) “And we’ve sort of felt that because all of our competitors are deep into real estate and adding beds and getting people committed to skiing their resorts. So we would be able to do a similar type village that we have existing but on the east side of Bromley.”
(Sneyd) Where the “trail to nowhere” comes in is that a portion of the Appalachian Trail crosses the land and it might need to be relocated.
Not all of the provisions Leahy got into the farm bill are as controversial as ski and hiking trails.
He also helped to expand nutrition programs, including an increase in the basic Food Stamp benefit.
Vermont Food Bank president Doug O’Brien says the bill also will get more food and assistance to organizations like his, who help people who otherwise might go hungry.
(OBrien) “It represents the largest increase in food assistance for low-income people that we have seen in decades. And it comes at a time in which we have seen food prices rise to the highest level in 18 years.”
(Sneyd) President Bush is one of the critics of the farm bill. He doesn’t like that Congress didn’t significantly change commodity support programs and he’s threatened to veto it.
But Leahy’s office pointed out that the bill passed both the House and Senate by wide margins – enough that lawmakers could overturn a veto.
For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.