Congress needs to "think outside the box" on the Farm Bill - Catholic Rural Life

Congress needs to “think outside the box” on the Farm Bill

Catholic Rural Life • September 13, 2013


Our sustainable agriculture partners in Washington, DC, make it clear that it should be “a no-brainer” when Congress sets our nation’s food and farm policy. Our elected officials should invest in a sustainable future so that food production continues to feed us all, now and generations from now. To many of us, that means respecting the dignity of farm life and supporting on-farm conservation practices to properly maintain the land’s productive resources. It also means job creation through local food and family farms so that rural communities can thrive.

“Unfortunately,” say our partner advocates, “politics is trumping the best interests of both farmers and people like us.”
There is the usual politics that play out until an eventual solution is reached between the Senate and House versions of the farm bill. But that is now complicated by politics within the House itself, which somehow passed a farm bill earlier this summer without the usual Nutrition title — that is, without food stamp and food assistance programs. House leadership is trying to rectify that with separate legislation, but the stumbling block is the Tea Party call to make cuts to food assistance programs. Some House members are calling for severe cuts that would knock about four million current recipients off of food stamps.
What’s the House to do?
Politico reporter David Rogers recently wrote: “House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas says more ‘outside the box’ thinking will be needed to save a farm bill this fall and he is prepared to support ‘bigger ideas’ to get the task done.”
Chairman Lucas was looking ahead to talks with the Senate once the House voted on food assistance for low-income families. He had little doubt that it was going to be “a hard, complicated conference” between the House and Senate farm bill members.
He acknowledged that the challenges between their two bills are great. As Politico reported Lucas saying: “The positions are locked in so tight on so many issues. That to achieve a consensus that we can pass on both floors, that we get the President to sign, we may have to think outside the box.”
Our policy-makers certainly need to take a bolder approach if a new farm bill is to be salvaged this year. Believe it or not, it is coming up on two years since Catholic Rural Life and many sustainable agriculture groups around the country have been calling on Congress to pass a full and fair farm bill.  We’ve seen two failed attempts, followed by a lame extension of the old farm bill at the end of last year -– one that failed to reform out-dated farm subsidies and literally stripped all funding from nearly a dozen critical programs that help farmers and struggling communities.
These farm and rural development programs create jobs, invest in our next generation of farmers, and help rural businesses and communities build a more sustainable future. And yet, these are currently stranded without funding. Sad to say, it looks like Congress will allow another extension when the current one expires at the end of September. The lamentable situation of no new farm bill and no needed funding will continue.
This is inexcusable – Congress needs to act now.
So, here’s an online message to send to your legislators: “Two years is too long without a farm bill.  We need a full and fair five-year farm bill that reforms outdated farm subsidies, protects our natural resources, and invests in a healthier future for all of us — and we need it now!”
Please send a message right away. There is little time remaining.

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