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By Staff | Aug 3, 2012

The U.S. House moved its version of the farm bill, called Federal Agriculture Reform and Risk Management Act, out of committee on July 12.

According to committee chair Frank Lucas (R-Oklahoma) and Collin Peterson (D-Minnesota), the ranking member, the bill, “Repeals or consolidates more than 100 programs, eliminates direct payments, streamlines and reforms commodity policy that saves taxpayers more than $14 billion, consolidates 23 conservation programs into 13, which improves program delivery to producers and saves taxpayers more than $6 billion and provides regulatory relief, to mitigate burdens that farmers, ranchers, and rural communities face.

“It saves $35 billion versus $23 billion in the Senate bill.”

If they are so proud of this bill you would think that they would quickly pass it. The bill moved overwhelmingly out of committee, but has hit a brick wall with a thud against GOP House leadership.

I wrote some time ago that nothing of substance gets done these days in Congress due to partisan gridlock. In the House, farm bill-blocking gridlock is all within the Republican Party. This isn’t a GOP/Democrat thing. Republicans and Democrats on the ag committee crafted and advanced the bill.

The Senate produced its version of the bill through the committee process and advanced through the whole Senate without much real contention.

Amendments were proposed and voted on so that all sides had their chance to shape the bill. It was one of the extremely rare bipartisan things it has accomplished. The House ag committee pretty much did the same thing. The games that are being played are compliments of the Tea Party.

Now if some oil company wanted something from the House it would sail through. But House members have decided to use the farm bill to pay for the deficit.

They set objectives to reduce spending and they were met, but that doesn’t appear to be good enough. The Tea Party is not very good at taking yes for an answer or declaring victory. The Tea Party doesn’t want to compromise to get things done any more so it’s going to grind government down to its knees if it can.

It was hoped that agriculture would not be dragged into this cat fight if it met the terms on cuts outlined. However, the House leadership appears to be reneging on that understanding.

Majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) has refused to put the farm bill on the docket before the August recess. Lucas said that when he asked to move the farm bill forward speaker Boehner and Cantor just smiled at him. If they don’t move the farm bill forward now they can’t pass it and move it through the resolution committee with the Senate to finish it this year. I don’t see why that was making Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Cantor smile. Maybe we need to defeat a few farm state Republican House members to take that smile off their faces.

Farm groups and agriculture were generally happy with the farm bill. Eighty percent of the bill’s spending was food stamps and they cut them, too. The Tea Party has really not defined what it wants as obviously the cuts made must not be enough.

Its intention appears to be to keep that a secret until next year. Congress built a fiscal cliff that is likely to consume Washington in chaos at the end of the year.

Work like the farm bill should be done now as it will not be done well if it is left to next year.

Farm bill opponents like the idea of letting the farm bill wallow so that it appears that GOP House leadership is siding with them intending to join the enemies of agriculture.

Pushed about the drought, Boehner said that is what farmers buy crop insurance for. I thought that was a rather insensitive thing to say as there are programs that livestock producers need to help with the drought. Crop insurance will save farms this year with the epic drought.

The Tea Party would take crop insurance subsidies away from farmers too if it had the votes and right now it appears to have the votes of Boehner and Cantor.

This farm bill was done right, and the House should pass it expeditiously. The House and Senate should work out the versions, pass them and send them onto the President.

Washington just doesn’t appear to function anymore. The GOP, if it allows its Tea Party faction do this, appears to believe that it has nothing to fear from the farm vote. If that is true then farmers only have themselves to blame for being taken advantage of. The farm bills passed out of committees contributed their fair share to deficit reduction.

Farm groups, such as Farm Bureau, will bring some pressure to pass a bill, but ideologues don’t listen well except to the voices in their heads. All I know is that this is why I have such utter contempt for Congress.

Its members make jokes about their low public approval, but don’t appear concerned enough to change anything. They almost revel in their inability to do anything important, spending all their time on the trivial pursuit of the other political parties’ demise while Rome burns.

The U.S. Senate did its job and passed a farm bill. The GOP said that it wants control of the Senate, too.

It certainly can’t be because it has shown us how to get things done, in fact, in the instance of the farm bill, quite the opposite.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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