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Lack of a farm bill no surprise in Congress

by Dan Cash

There seemed to be a fair amount of confidence among several farm groups leading up to the House vote in Washington, on a new Farm Bill - - It’s about time, as nothing good happened last session, other than an extension of the old Farm Bill which was supposed to have expired at the end of last year; the extension runs it until September, presumably more than enough time to redo the Senate version, and for the House to iron out its own wrinkles and deliver the new legislation.

So, what generated that confidence that something that never got close in last session would find the same principals taking, if not a right-angle turn, at least a sharp deviation  into the current legislative year. Well, there are a few factors that gave rise to that confidence. There was no threatening comments from the House as the Senate deliberated - - like, “When it gets to the House, it’s dead.”  Also, Speaker John  Boehner, toward the last of the debate, was saying he had counted the noses, and it appeared a majority would approve.

I think Speaker Boehner is old school.  He’s been much in the news, particularly since Barack Obama became President.  I’ve watched him, and I’m sure you have too, operating from a position of significant authority. He is, for example, 3rd in line of succession for the Presidency.

He became Speaker, the Numero Uno in the House, by vote. He SHOULD be able to function rather as did “Tip” O’Neill.  That is to say, he should have at hand carrots sweet enough to be attractive to a wavering colleague, and sticks flexible enough to sting like fury, without inflicting any real damage.  He seemed to think he had the votes to pass the new Farm Bill.

I am reminded here of the saying, “There are none so blind as those who WILL NOT see.”  There are enough ultraconservative Republicans in the House to make questionable the fate of any legislation not expense-cutting to the extreme.  Add those to the Democrats who might not be expected to follow the Republican Speaker’s lead anyway, and your majority is in jeopardy.

From the basket labeled “What Others Are Saying”, we find expressions of exceptional disappointment from the American Soybean Association, the National Corn Growers Association, Farm Bureau, and National Farmers Union, that I can think of.  Part of the problem is, there aren’t enough votes in all those groups, scattered among the legislative districts where the nay-sayers live and campaign, to make the difference

The bottom line, I’ll bet, is “Food Stamps”.  I don’t think food stamps should be part of the Farm Bill legislation anyway, - - but it is.  It’s a whopper, taking up a third or more of the Ag Department budget.  On the one side are those who say its too expensive and must be cut; on the other side are those who say current proposals cut way too much.

We need a miracle!

Karl Guenther is a retired Kalamazoo farm broadcaster and can be reached atkhguenther@att.net. He is a member of Michigan Farm Bureau and an emeritus member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting.