Crossing Fingers for a Farm Bill

A Washington Post editorial raises new doubts about finishing the farm bill this year. But D.C. farmhands remain confident Congress will get the job done. The editorial plays food stamps against farm subsidies – arguing U.S. farmers are wealthy enough to take care of themselves while the poor need government help. But it’s that urban-rural coalition in Congress that’s given farm bills the votes needed to pass – and without it the Post argues a farm bill could again unravel this year.

Former Ag Secretary in the Reagan Administration, John Block predicts a farm bill is still likely in the next few months…
 

“Congress is not very good at getting anything done and I think they feel they have to do a couple things. I think they will get the farm bill done eventually by fall sometime.”

Block says both chambers – despite early resistance – will have to compromise on food stamp cuts to bridge a serious divide. Direct payments will be gone and crop insurance may not get as much funding as some want. But American Farm Bureau Director Dale Moore says food stamps is the one issue that gets the attention of all lawmakers with constituents affected in some way…
 

“To get those extra votes you need to get the bill off the House floor and off the Senate floor, based on support for the nutrition title. I am optimistic that whatever the Senate position is and the House position is, it will be very interesting to see how they forge ground that they may not like but they can live with.”

Still – Block says it’s impossible to know how things will finally turn out on the farm bill…
 

“There is always doubt. I’m not saying it’s a 100% chance, but I think its 75% chance we will get one, maybe 80-percent.”
 

The Senate resumed farm bill debate late Monday with votes on crop insurance, research and development for alfalfa and expanded funding for regional food aid buying projects. Senate Ag Chair Debbie Stabenow was under pressure to come up with an abbreviated amendment list to hasten farm bill passage this week before the body moves to immigration reform.


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