Despite two years of political
tumult and policy uncertainty
in Washington, D.C., there are
reasons to be hopeful.
An under-budget U.S. farm policy has
fostered an unprecedented decade of
growth while leading the way in exports,
job creation and deficit reduction. Counterproductive
and regulation was forestalled. Tax law is
no longer temporary, with most of the
Bush tax relief made permanent.
And Washington recognized that it has a
debt and deficit problem, even if it has not
yet begun to fully deal with it.
Some people despair over the failure to
pass a five-year Farm Bill last year and
blame a divisive Senate Farm Bill, disagreement
over the commodity title, higher
crop prices, diminished clout, libertarian
and left-wing extremes and inadequate
resolve on the part of the White House and
Congress. While these may have contributed
to an extension of the 2008 Farm
Bill rather than a five-year reauthorization,
the real culprit might be inertia.
Consider that of the 241 bills enacted
into law in the 112th Congress, only eight
were something more than an extension of
current law or a commemoration or post
office naming. The Farm Bill was not singled-
out for neglect. It encountered the
same apathy as everything else. That’s no
reason to celebrate, but neither is it cause
More sobering is Washington’s inability
to address fiscal issues. Of the $4 trillion
in deficit reduction believed necessary,
only about $2.75 trillion has been achieved,
and it’s still $1.25 trillion short. Yet,
Republicans indicate that January’s tax
hike constitutes the full breath of revenue
increases, and Democrats are adamant that
cuts to major entitlements are off the table. That makes it difficult, if not impossible,
to reach the $4 trillion savings mark.
Washington’s next set of 11th-hour
opportunities to deal with the deficit and
debt comes in March and May when automatic
budget cuts kick in under sequestration,
the current Continuing Resolution
that keeps the government running expires,
and the debt ceiling must be raised again.
The resolution to each issue poses challenges
and opportunities for farm policy. Given the heavy lifting yet to be done on
fiscal issues, it may be a blessing in disguise
that a five-year Farm Bill was not
completed in January if it would have been
re-opened within months for more cuts.
Whatever unfolds, there are four things
the farm community must do:
First, unite to complete a five-year Farm
Bill and prevent the successful picking-off
of one farm policy after another. To deny
that this is the strategy of adversaries is to
ignore the facts.
Second, insist upon and work for a Farm
Bill with a robust commodity title, not a
weakling policy that would neither work in
periods of depressed prices nor in times of
Third, reject the Trojan Horse offered
up by opponents of agriculture who want
to lure the farm community into crafting a
commodity title that attempts to only duplicate
what crop insurance is designed to
do in order to bring both tumbling down.
Fourth, understand the new environment
in Washington and assess the adequacy of
old plans for survival. An effective vote
count for a Farm Bill is a good place to
start in gauging support and thinking on
There is certainly no shortage of challenges
in the 113th Congress but always
reasons for hope.
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