Farm bill deadlock shows stalematePublished 10:29am Friday, August 10, 2012
Congress is cutting it close.
Both houses have recessed without passing a farm bill. They won’t be back in session until Sept. 8.
The current bill expires Sept. 30. That leaves 22 calendar days to take action, but a calendar day is not a workday. Not in Congress.
The current schedule calls for only 13 working days in September. That’s 13 days to reach agreement on a farm bill.
Of course, that’s not the only legislation pending. The farm bill is important, though, especially in such a dire year as this one is for American agriculture — and for the U.S. budget.
For rural America, the farm bill is the basis for making all sorts of decisions on the farm and in other businesses. Without a farm bill, there’s deep uncertainty.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the stalemate in Washington has come to roost in farm country.
The circumstances surrounding the farm bill are instructive, too. The Senate has passed a version of the farm bill. It cuts about $2.3 billion from farm, food and nutrition programs. The House Agriculture Committee has approved a bill draft that cuts more, almost $3.5 billion, largely by reducing nutrition programs.
The committee approved its draft bill a month ago, but the House leadership hasn’t brought it forward for a vote. Instead, they passed a drought relief bill that provides $383 million in emergency relief — a sum that everyone concedes is far, far short of the damage this year’s widespread drought has already done.
But of course, it’s not that simple. Nothing in Congress ever is.
Both drought relief and the farm bill have fallen victim to partisanship. Some of this is based on ideological difference. Some of it is based on partisan posturing.
All of this mirrors other stalemates in the 112th Congress. We needn’t list them here.
There’s a thread of continuity, however, that’s hard to overlook. Both sides have been unwilling to compromise. Apparently, lawmakers have forgotten that politics is the art of compromise. And its corollary, that it takes two to compromise.
Perhaps searing heat and a lack of rainfall will provide some clarity in Congress. Perhaps members will overlook their differences and take action.
But it’s hard to muster much optimism.
— Grand Forks Herald, Aug. 5