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Agriculture April 16, 2014

1/16/2013 11:03:00 AM
Farming and your freedom: Apparently, it's Farm Bill Ad Infinitum!

By Peter Graham

Well, thank goodness, we (they) avoided the Milk Cliff and families everywhere went out and got a milk moustache in celebration. Well, maybe not, but farming interests, along with milk consumers and those unfortunate enough to need the SNAP program, did breathe easier, because Congress (in its infinite wisdom) deigned to extend the old Farm bill until next September during the fiscal cliff vote recently.
The problem is that the extension of the old bill does not mean that Congress met its obligation to pass a 2012 Farm Bill, one that was born of long negotiations between farming interests, social program advocates, and politicians of both parties in both houses of Congress. Now, the process has to start all over again, and who knows what that portends, but as the old RAM truck commercial intoned, “That can’t be good!”
The bill providing the extension is oddly called the Taxpayer Relief Act, and will be in force through December 31, 2013. Among other things, the bill will keep milk prices sort of where they are now, higher that a gallon of gas most places, but far below the feared $7-$8 per gallon threatened by the Tea Party’s refusal to pass the farm bill already passed by the Senate. That threat called for reverting to 1949 farm bill provisions, including government purchase of milk at stratospherically high prices.
With that problem behind them, lawmakers now face pounding out yet another “new” farm bill, complete with all the push and shove of the lobbyists and the screeching of the right wing ideologues. Add to that the fact that liberals will push anew for more money for the SNAP nutrition and school lunch programs, severely cut during the journey to the still-born bill.
According to The Farm Journal, the extension moves forward $5 billion worth of government subsidies for corn, soybeans and other commodities. It also extends, but to a lesser extent, conservation programs, organic programs, and provisions for beginning farmers, The Journal noted. These direct payments had been targeted for elimination during negotiations in 2012. The Senate passed a farm bill extension last June, but the House did not bring it to a vote. That led to a stalemate, The Journal said, and that ended in the partial extension.
The bill also extends supplemental disaster assistance programs by amending, The Journal said, the federal crop insurance act to include 2013. Many other provisions and programs of the 2008 bill have been extended or amended or both. It’s all very confusing.
The real implication in opening up the negotiating can of worms yet again, is that settled law types of programs will potentially be “messed with” and there will be a chance for ideologues to cut programs even more, maybe even gut the bill as we know it. Farmers beware, and poor folks? Quake in your shoes!
I’ll see ya!

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