Politics dooms latest farm bill again

nother farm bill goes down in flames.

For the readers who follow agricultural issues, this statement is already old news. It is extremely disappointing and frustrating to see all the time and money expended on behalf of America?s farmers to be wasted?again.

We do have a smoking gun this time, however. Actually, we have more than one. Three, if anyone is counting.

Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., offered an amendment, which passed, to give states an option of imposing work requirements on recipients of food stamps.

Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., sponsored an amendment that provided a substitute supply management program for dairy farmers, and he convinced enough members that the price of milk ?might? go up. It passed.

Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., sponsored an amendment that allows states to administer drug tests to food-stamp applicants. It also passed.

The final nails were in the coffin of the farm bill. These amendments assured wholesale abandonment of support by Democrats. The bipartisan effort to move the bill through the House and into the joint committee was unsuccessful.

Chairman Lucas made a heroic effort to keep the amendments off the floor, reminding the representatives, ?If you overreach you get nothing.?

Perhaps that was the intention. Though on the surface, the amendments reflect valid conservative values, a brief look into the history of amendments suggests sponsors of amendments resort to sponsoring a ?poison pill? in order to defeat the primary legislation to which the amendment is attached.

Both political parties use this tactic with effective results. In this instance, Rep. Rosa Delauro, D-Conn., a fervent supporter of agricultural programs over the years, suggested on the House floor that if Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program applicants should be tested for drugs, then farmers, who are recipients of federal dollars, also should be tested for drugs.

With that said, she withdrew her support for the farm bill, as did other key members, which resulted in a negative outcome.

Goodlatte, who successfully won support for his amendment, ultimately voted against the farm bill, which also suggests he had other reasons why the amendment was sponsored.

After the farm bill?s defeat, the International Dairy Foods Association was holding its annual ice cream social, and it turned into a victory celebration, with the star guest, Goodlatte, attending.

Not surprisingly, our own Rep. Tim Huelskamp voted against the farm bill, as did Rep. Mike Pompeo. Rep. Lynn Jenkins and Rep. Kevin Yoder voted for the bill.

Where to go from here, again?

For those who need to know, there were many legislative fixes in the farm bill that would have addressed issues susch as Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure regulations, raising the maximum fuel storage limit, exempting most farm operations from burdensome regulations.

So, if you want to share your outrage with those responsible for defeating this effort and imposing harsh regulations on your farm, you know who to contact.

Contrary to Chairman Lucas?s plea for not interpreting this latest defeat as a sign of a dysfunctional legislative body, there is no other way to interpret it. Overreach is a kind way of telling them nicely that they went too far. But he knew they were already aware of that.

Last-minute amendments, like these three mentioned earlier, are just another way of defeating the primary bill. Rather than hold an organized debate on the merits of the nutrition program on its own basis, since its authorization is written as permanent law, they are able to secure defeat of the farm bill, which represents less than 20 percent of the total spending in the USDA budget.

Spending taxpayers? money is not the issue. It never was. It?s spending money on programs you don?t like that matters.

Ironically, nutrition spending continues to grow at an astronomical pace, which the proponents of reform have sworn to address. And yet, they seem unconcerned about the contradictory nature of this issue. If nutrition programs were the issue, someone would have sponsored a bill to amend the law that governs its operations.

Rather, they use the nutrition issue to defeat agricultural programs. The coalition of support for agriculture has vanished, leaving it vulnerable to defeat in the political arena.

It is going to be a long, hot summer in D.C., as commodity associations regroup and make another attempt at forging bi-partisan support for a program that is vitally important to the economic security of rural America.

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