Monday, September 09, 2013

Rural expert says Congress is more likely to extend the current Farm Bill than pass a new one

"Congress returns from August recess this week, and, as we all knew would probably occur, suddenly other much more pressing business makes Farm Bill consideration by Sept. 30 highly unlikely," Chuck Fluharty of the Rural Policy Research Institute writes for Agri-Pulse, a Washington newsletter. "After two years of work for so many good folks, in both bodies, USDA, and all our diverse interest groups, an extension [of current farm law] now appears to be our most hopeful outcome."

Fluharty writes from his home in Appalachian Ohio, "farmers all ask the same question, in almost the same way: 'Why in the hell can't those guys pass a Farm Bill?' And since our county is one of Ohio's poorest, most followed that question with a comment about why those rich congressmen are 'trying to take food stamps away from folks we know, who truly need that help?' At first, this was quite surprising to me. While they clearly were following Farm Bill discussions, it's quite amazing that in this hotbed of Tea Party rhetoric, these two questions were so often combined in my neighbors' political consciousness." House Republicans' efforts to reduce food stamps, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, cost Democratic votes for the bill in the House, scuttling it.

"When you farm so close to this much poverty, and your town's churches all host food-distribution and free-meal programs, it's very hard to objectify 'the poor'," Fluharty writes. "They are all your neighbors, and more of them are white than black. In fact, I am quite certain that if the SNAP program is significantly reduced, the one remaining service station qua small deli qua small grocery store remaining in our town will close. After I've kicked the dirt with my boots for a while, and looked around, I tell them I have no answers. These folks have never read a study of the unparalleled growth in U.S. income and wealth inequality over the past 30 years; they just can't understand why Congress can't take care of farmers and the folks that need some help 'getting by' these days. It is a pertinent question." (Read more)

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