In farm bill debate, a glimpse into machinery of the status quo


Photo by Ray Sawhill (  Some Rights Reserved.

Photo by Ray Sawhill ( Some Rights Reserved.

UPDATE, 2:30pm: Wow. The House voted down the Farm Bill, 234-195. The U.S. is already going one year with a provisional agricultural policy. Now it looks like it could go much longer.

Great article last night by Politico's David Rogers about the shifting sands in the House farm bill debate. One thing made clear is that the conference committee is going to have a lot of work to do bridging the $16 billion gap in food stamp funding between the Senate and (likely) House versions.

Another is how change dies an unceremonious death. Take the efforts from both sides of the aisle to keep government price supports and subsidies under control. An amendment to remove high price supports for rice and peanut crops by Ohio Republican Bob Gibbs evaporated. A measure to tie crop insurance to stronger land conservation faded away, as California Democrat Mike Thompson packed up his bags. Both fails leave this great explanation from Rogers:

In both cases, Gibbs and Thompson’s offices said the lawmakers were looking forward to making their cases in conference with the Senate. But the National Corn Growers Association didn’t hide its disappointment at Gibbs change of heart. Thompson’s co-sponsor, Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) found himself alone on the floor, explaining a decision that didn’t seem his own.

“I had to accept an unfortunate but strategic retreat in order to fight for this, another day,” he said later.

The farm bill is now an epic battle, between and among parties, between ideological divides, between titan corporate lobbyists and the crop associations they represent. It doesn't take much for something new, something different, or something reform-minded to wither away to the status quo.

In fact, Rogers reports the final showdown may be over a new provision in the dairy program – control of the milk supply. Processors and Speaker John Boehner hate it. Dairy Farmers of America has made it the central plank of their farm bill platform this time around.

House money on the status quo.


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