The following is an editorial from the Mankato Free Press.
It’s not unusual for a farm bill to be extended for a short time after it expires to give members of Congress more time to come to an agreement on a new 5-year bill.
The current farm bill expired at the end of last month and crafting a new one will be particularly challenging this year, creating uncertainty for Minnesota farmers as well as for school lunch programs and many others who rely on it.
The farm bill is a roughly $1.5 trillion package of legislation that funds U.S. nutrition, commodity and conservation programs.
The bill, usually written and supported in a bipartisan manner, has already run into complications because of the poisonous political atmosphere in the U.S. House.
The debt ceiling crisis took attention away from the farm bill and a short-term debt ceiling fix expires in November, setting up another showdown.
And even before the farm bill was allowed to expire at the end of September, discussions had run into problems. Republicans wanted to shift money away from ag conservation programs and from food stamps, which is known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The GOP wants to shift more money to increase subsidies to farmers for crop insurance and commodity price supports.
Democrats are strongly against such a transfer of funds.
Any further work on the farm bill came to a halt recently because of the crisis created by the GOP being unable to choose a new House speaker, which means no work can be done on any legislation until a speaker is chosen.
There are always improvements that can be made to the farm bill. Some argue subsidies should be better targeted to provide less to the wealthiest farmers. Beyond those that want to cut nutrition funding, many in Congress want to add some work requirements for those getting food stamps.
In today’s political environment reaching agreement on those differences will be more difficult than in the past.
As Congress works on a new farm bill members need to tap down the political gamesmanship and focus on the good the legislation does for farmers and many other Americans.