Monday, September 10, 2012

Congress, returning from recess, confronts farmers

The New York Times reported yesterday that one of the most challenging issues facing Congress as it returns from its five-week recess today is the farm bill.  The Senate passed a 2012 farm bill back in June, but the House of Representatives has not acted in similar fashion, even refusing to consider their own Ag Committee's "sweeping farm measure, instead pushing through a short-term $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of other farmers."  The Senate has not acted on that measure, considering it too limited.

The 2008 farm bill expires at the end of September.  Meanwhile, the plight of farmers has been aggravated over the summer by the crushing, record-setting drought.  Yet both Senate and House officials indicate that negotiations during the summer recess "were not fruitful."

Here's an excerpt from Jennifer Steinhauer's story, with a focus on agitation from Midwest and Great Plains states:
The fate of the current farm bill ... has preoccupied many voters in agricultural states and has haunted lawmakers at constituent meetings, debates, and local and state fairs.  In South Dakota, the farm bill was the central topic at a recent debate between Representative Kristi Noem and her Democratic challenger, Matt Varilek.   
Members of Congress in places like South Dakota and Iowa have apparently told constituents that they expect a one-year extension of the 2008 farm bill.

The American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union will hold rallies on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.  But, Steinhauer reports, lawmakers may not be moved by these, "appear[ing] to favor action on other bills that emphasize their political agendas over actual lawmaking."  Her suggestion is that the farm bill is not part of those political agendas.

Other summer stories about the farm bill are here, here, and here. Here and here are New York Times editorials on the topic. Here is an earlier blog post on the topic.

Meanwhile, Nicholas Kristof offers this on happy cows in Oregon.  I can't help wonder if keeping dairy cows in this humane way is as easy and profitable as this Oregon farmer makes it seem, why aren't all farmers doing it this way?

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