Seemingly lost in the high-stakes drama surrounding the partial government shutdown and on-again-off-again debate over the nation's debt ceiling is the farm bill.
Or lack thereof.
The nation's farm policy has expired, but no one seems to be talking about it. What does this mean? It means that many federal farm programs have expired, and farm policy could soon look more like 1949 than 2013.
A few days ago, House Speaker John Boehner named the Republican members who will make up the House-Senate Conference Committee - a group of politicians who are charged with finding enough common ground between the House- and Senate-passed farm bills to pass new legislation (the Senate's conferees were named Aug. 1).
"There are challenging issues yet to overcome, but we have a solid team of negotiators in place," Boehner said in a news release from the Committee on Agriculture. "I am confident we can reach consensus and send a five-year farm bill to the president."
Sounds good. But where does his confidence come from? Certainly, the general public doesn't share his optimism. And why should we?
District 7 Democratic Congressman Collin Peterson thinks Republican leaders are "finally getting serious about the farm bill," but said that appointing conferees outside the Ag Committee "has made our job a lot harder."
Not a good sign.
The farm bill might have gotten lost among the fingerpointing and vitriol in Washington, D.C., but it's not lost on us. No offense, Mr. Speaker, but your nice, optimistic words about potential progress in the farm bill are less than conciliatory and have fallen on deaf ears. Quit patronizing us.
Sadly, the farm bill has fallen deep into the hole Congress and the president have dug. The current bill expired Sept. 30. How long will we have to wait for a new one?