With the Farm Bill scheduled to expire this fall, the U.S. Senate has passed a new food and farm bill, and the U.S. House committee on agriculture has passed a bill, too. But the bill in the House is not being allowed to be presented and debated by the full House.
Instead, the House leadership created a bill out of thin air – a bill that has never been considered by a congressional committee. In the guise of “extending” the current farm bill and providing needed disaster relief in the face of extreme and widespread drought, the new legislation would have 1) made deep, unnecessary cuts to conservation programs – the very farm programs that reduce drought impacts; 2) stripped all funding from dozens of programs that support beginning farmers, rural communities, and food entrepreneurs; and 3) continued outdated and wasteful “direct payments” – despite bipartisan agreement in the House and Senate that our farm subsidy system needs major reform. All of this with no open deliberation, no hearings, no testimony, and no chance for amendments.
The House majority leaders proposed to put it on the floor for a vote this week, bypassing the House Agriculture Committee in the process. Swift and widespread protests by sustainable agriculture advocates and other farm activists appear to have derailed this shortcut rush to an “extension”.
Congratulations and celebrations are in order! Thanks to all of you who contacted your Representative on very short notice!
The climate in Washington seems very volatile, and nobody knows what will happen or when. Agriculture and food activists should continue to monitor legislative activity, and encourage debate and passage of a full Farm Bill this year.