Half the battle for farm bill passage was won Monday evening when the Senate passed a five-year, half-trillion farm bill with a bipartisan 66-27 vote.
We like most of what the Senate's bill entails, especially the expansion of crop insurance and the elimination of subsidies currently paid to farmers regardless of if they farm or not, while still subsidizing corn, soybeans, wheat and other crops.
The bill would also protect environmentally-sensitive land, international food aid and other projects to help rural communities.
Thank you, Senate, for this legislation.
Now, if only the House can get its act together and follow suit - something that might not occur too easily and definitely not without a fight. Although District 7 Congressman Collin Peterson has expressed subtle optimism for a farm bill to pass in the House and ultimately get signed off on by the president, we know there are plenty of House conservatives who will put up a fight. One of the contentious issues is the food stamp program called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). While the Senate bill would cut SNAP by about $400 million per year, the House reportedly wants to cut it by a whopping and potentially-devastating $2 billion per year. We think that number is far too high.
This is a gap - a huge gap - that needs to be addressed. Can the House pass a bill? Can the Senate and House find middle ground? We shall see, but if roadblocks can't be conquered on this one, don't expect rural America to forgive and forget. As slick as some politicians are, there will be no talking their way out of this one on their next campaign trail.