House lawmakers were informed today that if Congress moves on the farm bill during the lame duck session, any amendment votes taken that impact food will be tracked by Food Policy Action’s congressional scorecard. The new organization scores federal lawmakers on how they vote on critical food and farm votes. Click here to read the full letter.
With the elections finally behind us, Congress has returned to Washington to try to wrap up a slew of unfinished business. Among other things, lawmakers are grappling with how to revive the expired farm bill, while at the same time they must somehow address the looming “fiscal cliff” of higher taxes and crippling budget cuts that could drive the economy back into recession.
The farm bill affects every single taxpayer and everyone who eats. Therefore, every member of Congress has an interest in it, and each should have his or her opportunity to improve it. There are lots of ways to improve the versions that are currently on the table, particularly the House bill, which has never been considered on the floor.
It’s too late for Congress to pass a good farm bill this year. The coming lame duck session of the 112th Congress will have its hands full dealing with the “fiscal cliff” and should focus on issues that simply cannot wait.
The opening episode of the 4-hour epic that premieres on PBS on November 18 goes right to the cause of the problem. In a short time, farmers converted an area twice the size of New Jersey and centering in the Oklahoma Panhandle from native grassland to wheat fields. They did so because of a concerted policy in the 1920’s to industrialize agriculture and to “turn farming into a factory.” But the wind-swept prairie that dominated the region was unsuited for growing much, aside from drought- resistant grasses. Once farmers turned over the firm soil, they set the stage for a monumental disaster.
With high crop prices, high land prices and guaranteed business income thanks to federal crop insurance, farm businesses are doing very well, thank you very much. The Bloomberg news service reports that during this Great Recession, farm earnings in Iowa and across the U.S. increased eight times faster than non-farm wages from 2008 to 2011. Actually, farm businesses have been doing nicely even longer than that. Farm household income has exceeded average household income every year since 1996.
Today’s Des Moines Register op-ed by Environmental Working Group and Taxpayers for Common Sense explains why spending what little legislative time remains on a nearly trillion-dollar, multi-year bill that would boost taxpayer subsidies for agriculture — a sector that booked record profits of $122 billion this year — would be irresponsible.
With only five legislative weeks left, Congress must vote to extend the farm bill, but it must do it in a way that reflects the nation’s spending priorities, supports family farmers and protects the environment.
The Mississippi River is alive again here as it flows through the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Once again, this urban river runs clear and its waters are a world-class fishery for walleye, sauger and small and largemouth bass.
Despite all the attention being paid to the farm bill by political candidates, the coming elections are not likely to be decided by agricultural policy positions. In the run-up to Election Day, you might think rural voters were looking for someone to blame for Congress’ failure to pass a farm bill.