Opinion: Reform? Not in these farm bills
The stalled farm bill is once again taking center stage, thanks mostly to presidential campaign stops at the Iowa State Fair. President Obama accused GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan of blocking the legislation and Ryan, without mentioning the farm bill, courted farm country votes.
Obama urged the Iowa crowd to put pressure on their representatives to pass the farm bill, but as the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes in an editorial, farm bill issues aren’t simple.
"The best way to help these states is for leaders in Congress to pass a farm bill that not only helps farmers and ranchers respond to natural disasters but also makes necessary reforms and gives them some long-term certainty," Obama said.
We're not sure what legislation Obama has in mind because we haven't seen a bill in Congress this session that "makes necessary reforms."
Congress should help farmers in need. And it should pass a new farm bill, the five-year blueprint for federal farm policy that funds everything from crop insurance to food stamps.
But the president should urge lawmakers to pass a bill that actually reforms the bloated, outdated system of farm supports. Neither bill under consideration does so.
The farm bill, set to expire Sept. 30, is massive legislation and will set spending on hundreds of programs encompassing billions of dollars, making a measured, educated approach important. But the legislation also contains vital programs for farmers, meaning Congress can’t delay. That’s a tough spot for politicians, especially politicians in an election year. But working on tough issues is what legislators are paid for.
Congress should provide short-term, targeted relief for farmers who need it. But lawmakers should plow under some of their work on these bills and get tougher on farm subsidies while preserving a reasonable allowance in the bill for food stamps and conservation programs.
And they shouldn't be pressured into a bad bill just to hit a deadline.