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Farm Bill: Lawmakers Succeed At Failing ... Again


Congressional leaders never pass on an opportunity to shoot themselves in the foot, and every time they do, they shoot again, just in case they missed. As the expiration date of the current farm bill nears, lawmakers are distancing themselves from any compromise, well, because that's what they do best. But now their ineptitude has them turning inward to find resolve, while attacking the traditional structure by which the farm bill has been constructed, dismembering it into parts.

Last week, a farm-only farm bill (HR2642) passed through the House of Representatives with a vote 216 to 208, separating the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) to be voted on at a later date. Traditionally, the "farm bill" included the SNAP (formally known as the Food Stamp program), but chronic bickering over the future status of both SNAP and the subsidy/crop insurance programs, only produced partisan stalemates.

When Republicans reclaimed the House in January 2011, their "Pledge to America" vowed to bring transparency to the legislative process, guaranteeing a minimum of three days for members to debate bills. But the 608-page bill that passed Thursday, took less than one day to construct and then win approval in the House. 

Back in June, the House rejected a $100 billion-per year farm bill. Soon after, conservative Republicans chose to focus on a split bill to minimize the anticipated cut in farm subsidies and possibly increase the chance of deeper cuts in a SNAP bill that would soon follow. 

Democrats quickly labeled the farm-only farm bill the "bill to nowhere," arguing that the Democrat-controlled Senate would return the SNAP funding into the bill, and that President Obama would likely veto it, if they didn't.

But there is more at stake for all Americans than what has appeared on the surface of this endless argument. Not surprisingly, small farmers and low-income consumers stand to lose the most, while Big Agriculture and chemical companies get the gravy. 

The House bill that passed Thursday was stripped of funding for small farm programs promoting renewable energies and efficiency development programs that were previously established in the House bill that failed to get enough votes last June. 

The farm-only bill dismantled all conservation efforts that assisted thousands of small farms to reduce the fertilizer and pesticide pollution that poisons their rivers and drinking water, as well as reducing their reliance on fossil fuels.


Besides gutting these programs, the bill provides protection for pesticide companies against consequences for a broader use of their products; hamstringing some state laws aimed at curbing it.

The bill that passed the House last Thursday also attempts to make permanent, billions of dollars in subsidies available to corporate farms. 

Extreme weather changes have hindered the small farms far more than corporate and industrial ones. In many cases, the conservation funds that were stripped from the House bill before it passed, mean life or death to the operational cost it takes to run a small farm. Also, the loss of the local produce, guarantees sharp rises in the price of food on all American dinner tables, while increasing oil consumption.

There would also be additional residues from increased pesticides and fertilizers use, which would translate into poorer health and higher health care costs, were such a bill were to become law. 

The more than 600 pages in the the House bill attempts to do more than just hijack the American dinner table and will certainly kill your appetite. The only place it belongs is on the compost pile. 


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