It is two years overdue, but Congress has finally produced a farm bill. The new bill, replacing the old one that expired last month and left the nation's farmers in a state of uncertainty, was cobbled together by the House-Senate conference committee last week. It passed the House on Wednesday and is expected to pass the Senate. We're not sure whether President Obama will sign it or veto it since it does contain cuts in food stamp funding, but we will see.
The bill, on an issue that has traditionally been bipartisan legislation, has been hung up the past couple of years over demands by conservatives in Congress for steep Food Stamp cuts. There are still some in Congress who want to remove the Food Stamp program from the farm bill all together, and some who don't want any cuts at all. So we saw Reps. Michelle Bachmann and Keith Ellison, as polar as polar opposites can be in the House, both voting against it.
The bill will reduce food stamp funding by some $8 billion over ten years, far below the $40 billion sought by Republicans last year.
The new bill does do away with some of the subsidy payments that benefitted farm owners regardless of need or whether they really farmed or not. Instead, it beefs up the crop insurance program. Dairy price supports have been changed to an insurance system as well.
Subsidies for major crops like cotton and sugar remain.
It is a sign of the sad state of Washington that what has traditionally been routine legislation has taken so long to come about.