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Editorial: America needs a farm bill

Published 9:07am Friday, December 21, 2012

It’s downright shameful that Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Senate were able to pass a five-year farm bill but members of the same two parties are unable to find middle ground to pass a measure out of the U.S. House of Representatives.

A farm bill is crucial for keeping the economy of rural America on track. The last farm bill expired Oct. 1.

We urge members of the House to do their jobs and get a farm bill passed before the end of this month. Of course, if they don’t act, we are sure they will once milk prices hit $6 a gallon. That’s the possibility if a new farm bill isn’t passed by Jan. 1, causing the dairy market to revert to a 1949 law.

“Consumers shouldn’t have to have higher milk costs because Congress can’t get its work done,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Much of the United States is in a drought, but without a farm bill, there is no drought or disaster protection in place. Commodity prices will become based on laws passed in 1938 and 1949 and out of step with modern prices. Conservation programs would be in flux, meaning there wouldn’t be the same incentives to preserve wildlife habitat. Nutrition programs, such as Women Infants and Children, would be without federal support, leaving many mothers without help to provide for babies.

All this because some grown-ups in Washington cannot see eye to eye.

If there was one lesson to learn in the 2012 election it was that Americans want their leaders to find compromise and lead the nation.

Let’s hope that can be done before New Year’s Day arrives.