Part of a series of posts concerning to 2012 Farm Bill
Four days ago the United States Senate passed their version of the 2012 Farm Bill in a rare show of bipartisanship, 64-35. The ball is now in the House’s court, with the need to pass a House version of the bill and hammer out any differences between the House and Senate bill by the September 30 deadline in which the current Farm Bill expires. Support was strong from both sided of the aisle, with Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky saying “This is a very fine day in the recent history of the Senate”, while Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) touted the bill as “the most significant reform to farm programs in decades”. The overwhelming support was likely due to the nature of the bill’s spending cuts; Republicans support them because they promise to reduce the deficit by $23 billion, with an added benefit on the Democratic being that much of the $23 billion dollar savings comes from funds that would have been directed to the wealthiest farming corporations.
September 30 may seem like a far-off date, but two of the truer truisms of Congress is that it works slow and that the House of Representatives often moves to the beat of its own drum. Such bipartisan support as was found in the Senate may be near-impossible in the more ideological House, with a Republican-led out to accept nothing but the most extreme of spending cuts. Republicans also dislike that the Farm Bill includes funding for food assistance programs (SNAP, food stamp programs). Reports are also surfacing that proponents of sustainable and organic agriculture should consider themselves the losers of the Farm Bill debate thus far. Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group was quoted as saying “Too many in the conservation community didn’t fight at all…As a consequence, conservation funding took the largest proportionate hit in this bill.” The concern for the Food Movement is that they must get organized quickly; we are quickly approaching a point where we need to get a Farm Bill passed, whether it has conservation funding included in it or not.