Farm Bill creeping along despite shutdown

MCFspelt'13Maybe calling it a baby step is an overstatement. But Farm Bill machinery is creaking and grinding ever so slowly in shutdown Washington, DC.

After the House re-attached the agriculture and food stamp portions of the Farm Bill on Monday and passed the bill to the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid named his representatives to a conference committee that would negotiate the vast differences between the House and Senate versions:

The Democrats are Senate Ag Committee Chair Debbie Stabenow, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Max Baucus of Montana, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and Michael Bennet of Colorado. The Republicans include Ag Ranking Member Thad Cochran, Pat Roberts of Kansas, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, John Boozman of Arkansas and John Hoeven of North Dakota. All 12 are members of the Senate Agriculture Committee.

The biggest lift will be over the huge gulf over funding the SNAP (food stamp) program, as Hoosier Ag Today reports:

Stabenow admits the nutrition title could be difficult – as the House plan to cut 39-billion dollars from food stamps over 10 years is not even close to what the Senate would accept. Stabenow says she wants to do everything to make sure nutrition is accountable – but also wants to find savings without playing with people’s lives.

Meanwhile, groups on both sides of the political spectrum say the new Farm Bill is a failure even before it's been passed and should be scrapped. The Gleaner News in Kentucky cites the conservative Heritage Foundation's position (which sounds a lot like several liberal groups' positions on the subsidies and crop insurance programs):

Heritage is critical of both the Senate’s and House’s provisions for new subsidy programs, which it says “go well beyond providing a safety net for farmers by protecting them from virtually all risk.” It says cost assumptions for the programs are based on commodity prices staying near record highs. If prices come down to their long-term averages, the think tank warns, the costs to taxpayers would be “astronomical.”

Meanwhile, the old 2008 Farm Bill Extension passed last year has expired. So to go along with no government services, there's no official, current agricultural policy in the United States today. Nice work, Congress.

 

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