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Stick A Fork In It

          One of the top priorities for agricultural organizations this year has been to help Congress pass a new Farm Bill because if it doesn’t happen by Sept. 20, 1949’s “permanent” farm law is automatically triggered. We hear that the permanent law is much more expensive than the current suite of programs for commodity producers, and it is just out of date. After all, agriculture has come a long ways since 1949. 

A couple of weeks ago, Congress was moving fast and furious. The Senate passed their version of the Food and Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act (FARRM) with a bipartisan 66 to 27 vote, and now it was the House’s turn to develop what they wanted in a Farm Bill.  The Senate and the House’s bills did not look at all alike. It would take a lot of compromise to get to one bill in conference, or maybe it wasn’t meant to happen. 

The Speaker of the House brought the legislation to a vote after it came out of the House Agriculture Committee and went to the floor, where it was met with around 200 amendments. Members of the House had high hopes, as the bill came out of committee with a 36 to 10 bipartisan vote. Bipartisan is not a word used in Congress much these days.  In the end, death came to the bill on the floor of the House with a 234 to 195 vote, but it was both Republicans and Democrats that voted it down.  Sixty-two Tea Party-influenced Republicans joined 172 Democrats in a stunning defeat of the bill that made the leaders of the House look weak as they supported it. 

One has to realize that the nutrition or food stamp part of the FARRM Bill is about 75 percent of the bill – something the conservatives, Republicans and Tea Party members don’t like and most Democrats do.   The Senate voted to cut $23 billion and the House wanted to cut $40 billion from the food stamp part, so getting the FARRM Bill out of Congress didn’t look too good.

Crop insurance was another controversial part that riled some House Democrats, as they didn’t see the need for it. Let’s be honest about it – not many members of Congress understand farming and ranching, and most are from an urban setting and realize that more city folks with food stamps usually means more votes for them.  

So whose ox was going to get gored – the urban or rural folks?  As I see it the Republicans were more fair. They knew cuts had to be made on all sides, and we have to realize that the reason Americans spend only 11 percent of their income on food is because of a fair Farm Bill – one of the lowest in the world.  As I have said before, “Far too many Americans are sitting at the government table, and no one wants to do the dishes.”  Some say we need to split the food stamp part away from the Farm Bill and let each hang on their own weight. I agree – both are important but need to be measured on their own merit.

Our government can’t get rid of poverty by just giving handouts. People have to have pride in their lives.